Here & Now political panelists Bill McCoshen and Scot Ross offer their analysis of the Oct. 7 U.S. Senate debate between Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and Democratic challenger Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who discussed issues including crime, abortion and attack ads a month before the 2022 election.
Republican political analyst
- Johnson said his approach to rising crime rates is to provide more support for law enforcement, and denounced Barnes’ position on the issue, which included more funding for schools. McCoshen agreed with the senator and said increased school funding would not affect crime in the state.
- McCoshen: “Yeah, what happened to that $100 million that went to the city of Milwaukee? Crime is still on the rise, right? Where is the full accounting of where that money went? What has that done to reduce crime in Milwaukee? And when he talks about fully funding education, what does he mean by that? We’ve given more money to education every cycle over the last 12 years, and our test scores keep going down and down and down. We had new test scores out a week ago and, in the city of Milwaukee, for minority students, only 10% are proficient in reading and math. That’s a catastrophe for our society. That’s what we should be focusing on.”
- Johnson stated his interest in a one-time single-issue referendum for voters to decide on the issue of abortion. McCoshen disagreed, but said the senator is open-minded about the issue.
- McCoshen: “I don’t agree with him on this one. So I think we will have a referendum in 33 days. On November 8, the people will get to decide who their state Legislature and their governor is. When Roe was overturned, this went from a federal issue to a state issue, so I think it should be up to the state Legislature. When Johnson said it was a victory, what he meant was it’s a victory for states’ rights. I agree with him on that. I don’t agree with him on the referendum idea, but I think he handled this question pretty well, and I think he’s trying to show people he’s open minded on the abortion question… He’s got exceptions for rape, incest and the life of the mother.”
Democratic political analyst
- A number of Republican-affiliate attack ads during the campaign have called Barnes dangerous in reference to his position on crime. Ross condemned this rhetoric, saying it is racist and inaccurate.
- Ross: “I think it’s unfortunate that we’ve seen the most expensive and most racist ad campaign in a U.S. Senate race, or any race for that matter, in the history of this great state. The unfortunate thing is they’re targeting low information voters. They’re putting Mandela’s picture up there — they’re juxtaposing it with people committing crimes allegedly — and they’re trying to link the two. But somehow because Mandela is Black, he is going to commit crimes like these other Black people who are on there? I think it’s despicable and disgraceful. Sen. Johnson has not called into question that tactic once. Unfortunately, it’s worked a little bit, because Barnes’ numbers have gone down a little bit. But the fact is, the people of Wisconsin are smart people, they’re good people, and I think any of them who watch tonight’s debate know that Mandela Barnes is the right person to be U.S. senator.”
- When asked about his position on how elections are conducted, Barnes pointed towards Johnson’s connection to the January 6 insurrection. Ross said Barnes is more familiar with how people are affected by crimes.
- When asked about crime, Barnes noted his personal familiarity with people who have been victims of violence. Ross contrasted the backgrounds of both candidates: “That’s the good thing that Mandela did — he said listen, who do you think has more experience with crime? Some rich guy who lives in a gated community and has a $3 million guest home in Florida, who flies a private plane, or a guy who lives in Milwaukee who has had friends and family who have been the victims of crime?”
Here & Now at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays.