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Activist Steven Olikara Joins Wisconsin US Senate Race

Millennial Action Project Founder Joins Crowded Democratic Primary

Steven Olikara smiles and waves from the podium. Supporters stand behind him.
Steven Olikara announces his Democratic campaign for U.S. Senate on Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021, in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

Activist Steven Olikara announced his Democratic campaign for U.S. Senate on Tuesday, joining a large field of Democrats vying for the seat currently held by Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.

Johnson hasn’t yet said if he will seek reelection in 2022.

Olikara, 31, is the founder of the Millennial Action Project, a national nonprofit that aims to bridge partisan divides through work with young policymakers. Olikara has also advocated on issues including workers’ rights and climate change and worked with a bipartisan group that promoted in-person and absentee voting during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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A Milwaukee-area native and University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate, Olikara announced his campaign at an event in Milwaukee at No Studios, an art studio and co-working space.

During his speech, Olikara said he would pursue bipartisan policy solutions in Washington.

“Wisconsin doesn’t have to be the symbol of trench warfare politics, we can be the symbol of inclusive and compassionate and honest politics — that’s within us,” he said.

He also spoke about his support for legislation that would combat climate change and gun violence and expand disability and voting rights under federal law.

“It’s the easiest thing in politics right now, to just say what you’re against and just demonize other people,” he said. “The more important path for us to is say what we’re for.”

Olikara, who is Indian American, is the first candidate of Asian descent to enter Wisconsin’s 2022 Democratic U.S. Senate primary.

Other announced Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate seat include Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, Wausau physician Gillian Battino, former state Senate candidate Adam Murphy, Milwaukee alder Chantia Lewis and state emergency management director Darrell Williams.

The partisan primaries for the seat will be held next August.