Barnes
Barnes

MARINETTE — With just a month to go before the November election, Wisconsin’s Lieutenant Governor candidate Mandela Barnes is paying a visit to Marinette on Monday in order to bring his message — and the message of Tony Evers’ campaign for governor — to the voters of the bay cities area. 

Barnes is a Milwaukee native, and grew up in a middle-class home attending both public and private schools. He was elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly at 25, rose to become the chair of the legislature’s Black & Latino Caucus during his first term and established a reputation as a pro-growth progressive while in the District 11 seat between 2013 and 2017. Barnes wrote several pieces of legislation while serving in the Assembly, such as reforms to the parental choice and juvenile justice programs, a new grant program for community prosecutors, tuition-free enrollment for technical college students, the creation of an Office of Civil Service, preregistration to vote for 16- and 17-year-olds, decriminalization of marijuana and gun control legislation.

In 2016, Barnes decided to run for the Wisconsin State Senate District 4 seat, but lost to incumbent Lena Taylor. He launched his campaign for lieutenant governor in January and won the primary on Aug. 14, officially placing him on the same ticket as gubernatorial candidate Tony Evers.

“I think Tony and I work very well together,” Barnes said of his running mate. “We bring different perspectives, whether it’s generational, whether it’s regional, whatever the case may be.”

Evers and Barnes previously worked together when Barnes was a legislator, on the Education Committee and the Urban Education Committee.

“It was seamless, going into this partnership, and now, getting to be around him and travel the state with him ... it’s very natural. Very genuine,” Barnes said.

As for what he and Evers have to offer Wisconsin that Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch don’t, Barnes said the Democratic campaign has so far focused on the positive impacts rather than the negative.

“This time, we’re actually talking about opportunity,” Barnes said. “We’re talking about the need to fully fund public education, to protect our environment, to expand access to quality and affordable health care, fix the roads: The real, bread-and-butter issues that have been ignored by the governor and current lieutenant governor.” 

Regarding health care in the state, Barnes said the “simple remedy” to reducing health insurance costs in the state is to take the Medicaid expansion. 

“If we take the Medicaid expansion, we can be sure to cover more people at a lower cost, and also Tony has talked about creating a public option for BadgerCare,” he said. 

As for local issues, Barnes said he found the Back Forty Mine project in Michigan “very concerning,” and he was reminded of the first speech he ever made on the assembly floor, about iron mining and “the need to not rush into this sort of decision, given the environmental impact and the minimal economic impact that it would have.”

“It’s about sustainable development,” he said. “These are the mining companies that are writing the rules, it’s not local authorities, it’s not local government. That’s an even bigger problem that goes even deeper than mining, but on the topic of mining, it’s one that can have the most catastrophic impact while people in any given village, town, municipality don’t have the say-so that they deserve.” 

Local control is something that Barnes wants to give back to Wisconsin municipalities, if he and Evers are elected. Above all, Barnes said he is hoping to put Wisconsin on a good track for the future.

“We’re not on a very sustainable path right now, and we need to change that,” he said. “For the longevity of this state, and the betterment of the people who live here.”

Barnes will appear as the keynote speaker at the Marinette County Democratic Party’s third annual Magnuson Dinner on Monday. Tickets are available from party officials for $25.