Incumbent Ron Johnson and challenger Mandela Barnes face off in first televised U.S. Senate debate Friday night

Published: Oct. 7, 2022 at 10:19 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson and challenger Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes faced off in first televised debate for U.S. Senate Friday night.

Moderator Jill Geisler was joined by a panelist of five Wisconsin journalists, one of which could not attend due to COVID-19 protocol.

The debate started at 7 p.m. and broadcasted on Cozi-TV, along with many other Wisconsin channels thorough out the state.

The Republican senator and Democratic lieutenant governor answered questions covering an array of topics.

The debate started with marijuana legislation, referencing recent pardons from the Biden administration regarding marijuana possession sentences.

Sen. Johnson says it should be up to the states and not the federal government.

Lt. Gov supports the federal legalization of marijuana and on the state level as well, mentioning tax benefits.

On the topic of bail reform both sides gave their opinions to the topic of eliminating cash bail.

“It has been sensationalized and it’s also been mischaracterized. Now I support it. Bill reform. Now, under my plan, dangerous people don’t get to buy their way out of prison. Now, Senator Johnson may not have encountered a problem he can buy his way out of. But that’s not reality for a majority of people in this state. And what has come to light is how people have unfortunately use the Waukesha tragedy, even going so far as to use it in commercials, re traumatizing families,” said Lt. Gov. Barnes.

“We have a huge problem with skyrocketing crime. One of the issues is we’re not keeping criminals in jail. And lieutenant governor was, when he was in the legislature, wrote the bill to eliminate cash bail. That is one of the methods, one of the methods we can use to make sure the dangerous criminals stay in jail. A lieutenant governor and governor, their goal as they enter their office so as to reduce the prison population by 50%,” said Sen. Johnson.

Immigration Reform was also brought up, with Johnson in favor of “closed borders” and saying the “immigration laws are not helping immigrants” and Barnes saying “the current immigration system is broken” and “should be fixed to benefit the economy.”

In regards to the environment, Lt. Gov. Barnes says he is in favor of clean energy while Sen. Johnson says “there isn’t much to do” in regards to the environment.

Then there was the topic of social security, Gov. Lt. Barnes claiming Sen. Johnson called the benefit a “Ponzi scheme” and saying the senator is looking out for his “wealthy donors.”

Sen. Johnson responding with saying he was never in favor of “getting rid” of social security and says is for “saving social security and Medicare.”

The panel asked about what the minimum wage should be.

Lt. Gov Barnes says he is in favor for a $15 minimum wage while Sen. Johnson says he is for increasing the wage but not if it “kills jobs.”

When asked about abortion Lt. Gov. Barnes says he would vote to codify Roe V. Wade, while Sen. Johnson says the extreme stance he see is “there being no limits on abortion access.”

On the rise of homicides, Lt. Gov. Barnes spoke about how good schools and good jobs would help with the rise in crime, and Sen. Johnson says there should be more support for law enforcement.

On gas prices, both candidates gave their visions on how energy independence would look like.

“Well, the problem is our reliance on fossil fuels in the first place. We need to be more energy independent. We need to do more to generate renewable energy in this country, specifically right here in Wisconsin. Now, the senator is going to say that the path forward is fossil fuels is going to make up every excuse for the fossil fuel industry. We need to hold them accountable for using inflation as a smokescreen to jack up prices on the American people. If you want to have lower gas prices, you need to be energy independent. We were energy independent under the last administration,” said Lt. Gov. Barnes.

“If you’re concerned about climate change, you should be supporting nuclear power. But most environmentalists oppose nuclear power. So there’s a solution here. It’s just environmentalists like Lieutenant Governor Barnes won’t embrace the real solution,” said Sen. Johnson.

And on student loan forgiveness, Sen. Johnson says it is “grossly unfair” to cancel student debt while Lt. Gov. Barnes is in favor.

The second debate is set for next week.