Dem U.S. Senate candidates on Sunday ripped U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, while pitching party activists on why they’re the right person to beat him this fall.

Outagamie County Exec Tom Nelson called Johnson a “lying, treason-loving, woman-hating Putin stooge” who needs to be sent “back to his Florida vacation home to be with his billionaire father-in-law’s money.” State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski said Johnson “just doesn’t give a damn about us.”

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes sought to draw a parallel to 2018, when the ticket he was on with Tony Evers, beat then-GOP Gov. Scott Walker and Dems’ opportunity this fall to take down Johnson. He recounted his background growing up in a union household and noted it feels “like the deck is stacked against us” with Roe v. Wade overturned, voting rights stripped away, industries in crisis and rising costs.

“We don’t want a handout. We just want a fair shot, and we know we will never get that fair shot so long as Ron Johnson is in the U.S. Senate,” Barnes said.

Alex Lasry, on leave from his job with the Milwaukee Bucks, touted his work to help the NBA team build its new arena, saying the effort showed that “progressive values are good for business and for workers.”

He argued Dems need to address issues like abortion by ending the filibuster to codify Roe v. Wade and passing the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which includes provisions on redistricting and voter ID, while making sure families have access to clean water and passing U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s Dairy Pride Act. The proposal would ban non-dairy products made from nuts, seeds and plants to be labeled milk, yogurt or cheese.

“Because I don’t think we have to choose between fighting for the causes we believe in, or focusing on bread-and-butter issues that make families’ lives better every day. We need to do both,” he said.

Godlewski said she had planned to speak with activists about growing up in western Wisconsin, the daughter of public school teachers. But then the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday, a ruling she called devastating.

“Many of us in this room now have fewer rights than we had just 72 hours ago, and I’m pissed,” Godlewski said.

She said the Senate had nearly 50 years to codify the ruling, but treats reproductive freedom like “an extra credit assignment.”

Nelson said Dems need a “strong Wisconsin beer candidate” to beat Johnson. He likened himself to Spotted Cow, which is brewed in Wisconsin by a company that’s employee-owned. He compared his rivals for the Dem nomination to Bud Light, which he said is owned by interests outside of Wisconsin, has no real history here and tastes watered down.

“My advocacy is not weak. It’s not timid. It’s not poll-tested in a lab. It’s based on the right thing to do,” Nelson said.

Eight candidates on the Aug. 9 ballot for the office spoke to the convention, each limited to a five-minute speech.

Steven Olikara, who founded a national nonprofit that aims to bridge partisan divides through work with young policymakers, said his first piece of legislation if elected would be to get big money out of politics and retore democracy.

“Let’s shock the world, let’s make history, let’s pass on a stronger democracy to our children and grandcildren,” Olikara said.

Darrell Williams, the administrator for Wisconsin Emergency Management, said he doesn’t support defunding the police and argued everyone inside a community needs to stand together to address the issues facing society. That includes issues in the Black community such as Black-on-Black crime, economic disparities, trauma, lack of mental health services and drug abuse.

“Blacks Lives Matter doesn’t mean all lives don’t matter,” Williams said. “But Black lives can’t matter until they’re part of the ‘all.’”

Businessman Kou Lee recounted fleeing Laos as a child and his parents took his family to Thailand and eventually to the United States.

“Everything that I am, everything that I have, every freedom that I enjoy, I owe it to the United States of America,” he said.

Dems have spent part of the past two years refuting conspiracy theories raised by former President Trump and his supporters about Joe Biden’s 2020 win, including his victory by less than 21,000 votes in Wisconsin.

Attorney Peter Peckarsky claimed the results of the 2004 presidential election in Ohio, along with those in 2016 for Wisconsin and three other states didn’t match exit polling. He claimed that threw the 2004 race to George W. Bush and the 2016 contest to Trump, resulting in their appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court. Those justices were part of the majority that overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday.

State GOP spokesman Mike Marinella knocked the major Dem candidates ahead of their speeches.

“Democrats like Mandela Barnes, Alex Lasry, Sarah Godlewski, and Tom Nelson want to duck, dodge, and distract through November, but as Democrat policies continue to fail, they can’t hide from the truth about their records,” Marinella said. “Desperate attacks against Republicans are the only message Democrats can drum up as they refuse to face reality while Wisconsin families struggle.”

 

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