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Milwaukee State Sen. Chris Larson Joins Democratic Primary For US Senate

Larson Is Fifth Democrat To Declare Run For Seat Held By Republican US Sen. Ron Johnson

Chris Larson
Wisconsin Sen. Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, addresses delegates at the Democratic Party of Wisconsin convention in Lake Delton, Wis., in this Friday, June 6, 2014, file photo. Democratic state Sen. Chris Larson, of Milwaukee, is preparing to join an already crowded field of candidates for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Sen. Ron Johnson. Larson filed paperwork for a run on Tuesday and was expected to announce his candidacy as soon as Wednesday, May 26, 2021. Andy Manis/AP Photo

Milwaukee state Sen. Chris Larson has joined the growing field of Democratic candidates vying for the seat currently held by Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson.

In a campaign launch video released Wednesday, Larson said the past year had seen people of Wisconsin struggle while the rich got richer.

“I’m asking you to join me in standing up to the bullies in Washington and Wall Street so we can write the next chapter of American history together,” Larson said in the video. “So everyone, no matter their ZIP code, can finally achieve the American dream.”

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Larson first won election to the state Senate in 2010 after winning a primary challenge against then-incumbent Democratic state Sen. Jeff Plale.

His first year in the state Senate put Larson in the national spotlight, as he and other Democratic state senators left Wisconsin to delay a vote on former Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s landmark collective bargaining law.

Larson was chosen by Democrats to be the Senate’s minority leader from 2013-14. He ran unsuccessfully for Milwaukee County executive in 2016 and 2020, losing the most recent contest by less than 1 percentage point to current County Executive David Crowley.

In an interview following his announcement, Larson said he had a record in the state Legislature of backing progressive ideas — from campaign finance reform, to raising the minimum wage to funding health care and schools.

“I think we have to have a proven progressive,” Larson said. “And that’s what I bring to the table.”

Larson said three of his top priorities in the U.S. Senate would be Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and a wealth tax on corporations and the richest residents.

Larson said he always represents his neighbors, suggesting Johnson is instead representing the interests of the wealthy.

“I think voters are not too thrilled about the idea of having Ron Johnson be the sixth richest U.S. senator,” Larson said. “There’s a full two-thirds of the U.S. Senate (that) is made up of millionaires. And I think, you know, them writing the laws, they tend to give themselves a little bit more wealth. I think people are sick of that.”

Reached Wednesday morning, a spokesperson for Johnson did not have a comment about Larson’s candidacy.

While Larson’s comments were aimed at Johnson, he faces at least a couple Democratic primary opponents who could potentially self-fund part of their campaigns.

They include Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, whose father, Marc, is a hedge fund manager whose wealth was recently estimated by Forbes at $1.8 billion. They also include state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, who is married to investor Max Duckworth, with whom she co-founded the firm MaSa Partners.

Others running include Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson and Wausau doctor Gillian Battino.

Larson’s announcement comes a day after Steven Olikara, who founded the Millennial Action Project, announced he was forming an exploratory committee to consider a run for U.S. Senate. Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes is also said to be considering the race.