Wisconsin’s Johnson beats Barnes; key Senate seat stays GOP

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson defeated Democrat Mandela Barnes in the midterm elections, keeping a seat in GOP hands while turning back Barnes’ attempt to make history as Wisconsin’s first Black senator.

The win for Johnson, one of former President Donald Trump’s biggest backers, came after Trump narrowly lost the state to President Joe Biden two years ago.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson was locked in a tight race in battleground Wisconsin, holding a narrow lead Wednesday over Democratic challenger Mandela Barnes in a pivotal race for determining majority control of the Senate.

Johnson declared victory Wednesday, but The Associated Press has yet to call the race. Johnson held a narrow 1-point lead over Barnes, just outside the margin for a recount to be sought.

“The votes are in,” Johnson said in an email statement. “There is no path mathematically for Lt. Gov. Barnes to overcome his 27,374 vote deficit. This race is over.”

Barnes did not concede defeat early Wednesday. He planned a noon news conference in his hometown of Milwaukee.

“No matter what anyone says, we are committed to making sure every vote is counted,” Barnes’ campaign spokesperson Maddy McDaniel said earlier Wednesday morning. “We will wait and see what the Wisconsin voters have decided after all their voices are heard.”

Johnson, in an interview on WISN-AM, accused Barnes of refusing to accept the outcome of the race after he had promised earlier in the campaign he would.

“It’s just crystal clear he has no path to victory here," Johnson said.

The race was one of a handful of tight Senate contests across the country that could determine which party holds majority control.

Johnson said he expected Republicans to do better in the midterm election, saying Democratic policies are “not good for America.”

“I’m surprised in Wisconsin my race was this close, I am," Johnson said.

Barnes, the current lieutenant governor, was seeking to become the first Black senator from Wisconsin. Johnson was running for a third term.

Johnson has been a top target for Democrats in swing state Wisconsin. He was first elected in 2010, as part of the tea party wave, and won reelection in 2016.

Johnson is one of former President Donald Trump's biggest backers. He ran this campaign trying to paint Barnes as being weak on crime with a thin resume who will be a rubber stamp for the national Democratic agenda.

Barnes, like many Democrats nationally, tried to make the race about abortion, highlighting Johnson’s long support for overturning Roe v. Wade, and arguing that the millionaire Johnson was out of touch with the concerns of the middle class.

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Scott Bauer, The Associated Press