MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican Wisconsin U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes are to meet Thursday night for their second and final debate less than a month before the Nov. 8 election.
Johnson, who is seeking a third term, and Barnes, the lieutenant governor, are locked in a tight race that could determine which party controls the Senate. Their first debate last week, hosted by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, was marked by both candidates repeating their well-worn positions, but breaking little new ground.
The debate comes a day after the latest Marquette University Law School poll showed Johnson with an apparent lead, marking a steady increase for the incumbent since Barnes won the Democratic primary in August.
Both campaigns have mirrored arguments being made in races nationally, with Johnson focusing on crime, public safety and the economy while Barnes has tried to make it about abortion, Johnson’s views on election integrity and the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol.
Johnson, one of former President Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters, has embraced controversial views during his years in the Senate and in his reelection campaign. A former plastics manufacturer, Johnson has questioned the outcome of the 2020 election, downplayed the Jan. 6 riot and touted unproven treatments for COVID-19.
Johnson and his allies have attacked Barnes as being “dangerous” and soft on crime, allegations that Democrats have said are racist. Barnes is seeking to become the state’s first Black senator. Barnes has denied he wants to defund the police, despite past comments that he wanted to redirect police funding.
The one-hour debate Thursday is sponsored by Wispolitics.com, 620 WTMJ, and the Milwaukee Business Journal.