Former Democratic U.S. Sen. candidate Mandela Barnes is on to a new political venture as he leaves the door open to a future run for office.
Three months after his close loss to Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, Barnes launched a political action committee Tuesday to “support diverse and ground-breaking candidates around the country.”
The Long Run PAC will focus “on young candidates, candidates of color, LGBTQ+ candidates, and candidates from working class backgrounds who are breaking the mold of what leadership looks like,” according to a statement from the group.
The aim is to provide those candidates with backing so that they can overcome the inevitable question: “Can you win?”
“We want to make sure that people who are non-traditional candidates can overcome that initial hurdle of being asked, ‘can you win?’ ” Barnes said in an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
He said if “a candidate can get that confidence boost early on it will help in the long run..”
The new initiative gives Barnes, 36, a platform as he takes a path followed by other recent statewide candidates, both Democrats and Republicans.
Former state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski launched an abortion rights PAC to support Democrats after she withdrew from the U.S. Senate race.
After losing in the Republican primary for governor, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch returned to the 1848 Project to recruit conservative candidates. Former GOP governor candidate Kevin Nicholson still oversees No Better Friend Inc., a nonprofit conservative advocacy group.
Barnes said his group, which plans to begin making endorsements later this year, will help candidates make connections
“We want to be able to offer the technical support, the guidance and talk about the things that we’ve been through, the things that people may not have been thinking about when they decided to run,” he said.
Barnes, who was the first Black person elected as Wisconsin’s lieutenant governor, left office in January.
During his race for U.S. Senate, Barnes came within some 26,000 votes of unseating Johnson, who was running for a third term.
Barnes said in looking back on the race, he reflected on “all the little small things you could have done or that could have happened differently. But we’re focused on moving forward, looking forward.”
Asked about his political future, Barnes said, “I’m really proud of what we were able to build over the last two years. Really excited about the coalition we put together, the unprecedented support we received. We broke a lot of records, fundraising records. Nobody put together an organizing apparatus like we did, either. And just the closest Senate race in 100 years. And while I don’t know what’s next, I’m certainly leaving the door open.”
Including his primary battle for the Democratic nomination, Barnes raised $42 million, while Johnson raised $36 million.
But spending by outside groups favored Johnson, according to OpenSecrets.org. Those groups spent $12.9 million supporting Barnes compared to $24.9 million backing Johnson. Additionally, $52.8 million was spent against Barnes, while $36.9 was spent against Johnson.
The outlet AXIOS was the first to report on the new PAC.