Trump Ally Johnson Seeks Wisconsin Re-Election as GOP Aims for Majority
(Bloomberg) -- Republican Senator Ron Johnson said he’ll seek a third term in 2022, counting on Wisconsin voters to reward his continued and staunch support of former President Donald Trump.
“In order for my campaign to succeed, I will need the support of every Wisconsinite who values the truth and refuses to allow lies and distortions to prevail,” Johnson, 66, said in a statement on Sunday.
Johnson is a top target for Democrats after he narrowly won his seat in both 2010 and 2016 in a key battleground state, and due to his increasingly controversial views that include opposition to Covid-19 vaccination and mask mandates.
President Joe Biden won the state by less than 1 percentage point in 2020. Four years earlier, Trump also won the state by less than a percentage point to break a seven-election winning streak by Democratic presidential candidates.
About a dozen Democrats so far are vying for their party’s nomination in the Senate race, including Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry.
GOP leaders are struggling to unite the party as some Republicans continue to follow Trump and others seek to move on from the former president’s influence. Johnson is one of Trump’s most vocal defenders in the Senate and has been a key voice stoking unfounded doubts about the integrity of the 2020 election.
“It is not a decision I have made lightly,” Johnson said in the statement. “Having already experienced a growing level of vitriol and false attacks, I certainly don’t expect better treatment in the future.”
Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s eldest son, welcomed Johnson’s decision on Twitter, saying he’s one of few Republicans in Washington who stands up to the “radical left and the corporate media.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, is working to recruit GOP candidates he’s convinced can win statewide races in the 2022 midterm, while Trump is gearing up his own political operation aimed at supporting lawmakers who have been most loyal to him -- and supporting primary challengers to others.
Trump endorsed Johnson in April, saying he’s “bold, he loves our Country, our Military and our Vets. He will protect our Second Amendment, and everything else we stand for. It is the kind of courage we need in the U.S. Senate.”
Trump has endorsed some incumbent senators facing re-election, including Tim Scott of South Carolina and John Kennedy of Louisiana. At the same time, he is threatening to try and push out Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who often works with Democrats and has been critical of Trump. Trump also has criticized John Thune of South Dakota, a member of McConnell’s leadership team.
Senate Republicans who have announced they won’t run this year include Roy Blunt of Missouri, Rob Portman of Ohio, Richard Shelby of Alabama, Richard Burr of North Carolina and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.
The Senate’s 50-50 split has given Democrats the majority with Vice President Kamala Harris’s tie-breaking vote. The Democrats have an advantage in the 2022 midterms because there are 14 Democrat-held Senate seats on the ballot, compared with 20 now controlled by Republicans.
Johnson, who founded a plastic-sheeting company, never held elected office before he entered the Senate. He first won the seat in a close 2010 race against former Democratic Senator Russ Feingold, with Johnson spending $9 million of his own money on the campaign to win by 5 percentage points, powered in part by the conservative surge of the Tea Party movement. He and Feingold faced off again in 2016, and Johnson won 50% to 47% with a boost from Trump.
Johnson is a reliably conservative vote in the Senate and largely backed Trump’s agenda, including the 2017 tax-cut measure.
Jan. 6 ‘Narrative’
The Wisconsin Republican headed the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee from 2015 to early 2021, when Democrats took the majority and Portman became the panel’s top Republican. When Johnson was chairman, he took a hard line on border security and immigration policies, supporting Trump’s push to fund a wall along the U.S. southern border and backing legislation to discourage migrants from Central America by allowing families to be held in detention indefinitely, as opposed to a 20-day cap.
Johnson also serves on the Budget, Commerce and Foreign Relations committees.
Johnson in recent months has been criticized for his role fomenting doubts about Biden’s victory in the 2020 presidential election. And in a May appearance on Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s show, he said the idea that the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol were an insurrection is a “false narrative.”
“This is all about a narrative that paints Donald Trump supporters as threats to this nation,” Johnson said.
Johnson last year pushed for an investigation of Biden and his son, Hunter, related to business dealing in Ukraine, but a joint Homeland Security-Finance Committee report released less than two months before Election Day found no evidence of wrongdoing by the former vice president.
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