Split ticket voting proves decisive in top Wisconsin races

Wisconsin 2022 midterm election

(NewsNation) — After hours of ballot tabulations, it was a close split race in Wisconsin.

Republican incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson won reelection by just more than 1 percent, and incumbent Democratic Governor Tony Evers won reelection by nearly 3 percent.

Democrat Mandela Barnes thanked his supporters and expressed hopes for the future in a statement regarding the race.

“We didn’t get over the finish line this time. But I know this movement that has meant so much to all of us will keep going. I still believe that better is possible, and I am in this for Wisconsin,” he said.

Johnson’s bid for reelection against Barnes has been bitter on both sides. 

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Barnes painted Johnson as an extremist and a supporter of former President Donald Trump who helped fan the flames of the Jan. 6, 2021 riots at the U.S. Capitol, and Johnson has called Barnes a left-wing radical who has “turned against America.”

The candidates met for a debate to clarify their positions on a variety of issues. Barnes defended himself over criticism of his stance on crime, arguing that the way to prevent it was to adequately fund schools and make sure there were enough jobs. 

Meanwhile, Johnson was repeatedly defensive over his alleged involvement in the Jan. 6 Capitol riots as well as his stance on Social Security. In August, he suggested Social Security and Medicare be annually approved. However, he clarified during the debate that he wants to “save” both. 

The candidates each sought to portray the other as having an extreme stance on abortion. The sitting senator suggested his Democratic opponent supported “no limits” on abortion, with Barnes hitting back by saying Johnson praised the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to remove federal protection for abortion access. 

Barnes had an ambitious campaign schedule consisting of a 16-day bus tour with 100 stops across the state. The tour started Oct. 24 in Green Bay and included an Oct. 29 rally in Milwaukee with former President Barack Obama. Barnes, who stood to become the first Black senator in the state if he won, depended on his connection with Black voters, who haven’t always turned out in big numbers during midterm elections. 

Johnson, for his part, embarked on a 10-day, 60-stop tour from Oct. 28 through Nov. 7, the day before the midterm election.

In September, polling showed the two candidates were in a dead heat but Johnson began picking up a lead over his opponent in the weeks leading up to Election Day. But just days before voters headed to the polls, Johnson only led Barnes by a few points.  

The outcome of this race will affect the partisan balance of the U.S. Senate. Of the 100 Senate seats, 35 were up for election during the midterms, including one special election. Democrats have an effective majority in the senior chamber, with a 50-50 split and Vice President Kamala Harris wielding the tie-breaking vote. Democrats held 14 seats and Republicans 21 seats up for election in the 2022 midterms. 

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