Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson said he doesn’t feel any pressure to announce whether he plans to run for a third term.
There is a growing field of candidates vying for Johnson’s seat on the Democratic side, but Johnson said it’s too soon to announce his plans for the November 2022 election.
"I think I’m doing the Wisconsin public a favor, I think I’m doing anyone who might want to run a favor too, as far as delaying this whole campaign," Johnson said. "We’ll have plenty of time, we’ll probably spend way more money than is probably warranted to spend. But, I’ll try to limit both of those."
Johnson spoke during a virtual lunch Thursday held by the Milwaukee Press Club.
In 2016, Johnson said he would only serve two terms in the U.S. Senate. On Thursday, he said that promise is part of his hesitation to announce a run for a third term.
"It would be fun just to return to a normal life, not have to put up with all that I have to put up with," Johnson said. "But what I didn’t realize in 2016 is that we would lose the House that we basically lost the Senate, that we don’t have the White House ... our nation hangs in the balance right here, and it’s also part of my decision factor."
When asked, Johnson said he has no intention of running for Wisconsin governor in 2022.
This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Milwaukee Press Club: You’ve said you don’t believe masks don’t prevent COVID-19 and drugs including hydroxychloroquine could prevent the virus. Do you still believe that?
Sen. Ron Johnson: I’ve been wearing masks in appropriate situations; I’m not opposed to it. I was always opposed to a mask mandate ... There is a fair amount of theater involved in this. I’ll still wear masks where it makes people comfortable. I’m doing it more as a common courtesy.
When it comes to hydroxychloroquine or an early treatment of COVID, I think it is a real blunder of the previous administration or the current administration, completely ignoring, and working against robust research exploring the use of cheap, generic drugs that can be used for the treatment of COVID.
MPC: Should companies recommend that their employees be vaccinated, knowing that what we are seeing now is a dramatic drop in cases?
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RJ: Not being a doctor I’m not in a position to encourage or discourage, and I would recommend anybody who is not a doctor to not make those type of recommendations. I’m glad more than 100 million Americans have been vaccinated. At the same time, I’m concerned about this push about indiscriminate mass vaccination.
MPC: Should Republicans accept that Joe Biden legitimately won the 2020 presidential election?
RJ: I think we have. What is there left to accept? I didn’t vote to disallow any of Joe Biden’s electors would be disallowed on Jan. 6. I don’t think we should scornfully dismiss the legitimate concerns of tens of millions of Americans who did witness irregularities in the 2020 election, observers who couldn’t observe. I thought it was an important debate to have on Jan. 6. I’m glad in the state of Wisconsin we have the Republican Legislature to ensure the integrity of our election here.
MPC: Did the Capitol police let protesters in during the insurrection on Jan. 6?
RJ: I’m not yet ready to release a report on it, but it is true, there were multiple areas of entry into the Capitol. It appears most of the conflict occurred on the west side of the Capitol, but there were other areas where people just walked in. I’ve taken a lot of heat for saying what is true, there weren’t thousands of armed insurrectionists. The left-wing rioters in the summer showed America how to use flag poles and other metal objects and frozen water bottles as weapons. I think the portrayal of Jan. 6 has been highly biased; I don’t think it has been particularly accurate.
MPC: Why are you not aggressively looking at what happened Jan. 6 and President Trump’s role?
RJ: Because we’ve had an impeachment trial. Who is ultimately responsible for security at the Capitol? That breach should have never happened. I called with Sen. (Lindsey) Graham to call for a completely independent commission to investigate this right after the breach.
MPC: Do you think President Trump bears any responsibility at all for what happened?
RJ: I don’t blame Sen. Bernie Sanders for the shooter who tried to take out Representative Scalise and the others on the baseball field. I actually blame the perpetrators of the crime. I blame the agitators, the provocateurs and who led the assault on the Capitol. That’s who I blame. I think our hyper-partisan politics is driving all of this. My actions have been to defuse the passion.
MPC: Do you support teaching critical race theory?
RJ: It shouldn’t be taught. I don’t believe America is a systemically racist nation. I wish the current leader of some of these movements would go back and re-read Martin Luther King (Jr.) and his approach. I realize that we still have racism in this nation, but we have come a long, long way and we should recognize the progress that we’ve made.
What President Biden did in his Tulsa address is awful and so incredibly divisive. The federal government is incapable of solving these problems and this administration is doing the exact opposite of what President Biden promised, which is to heal this nation.