July 27, 2022 4:15p
(WPR)---Less than two weeks before election day, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry is dropping out of the Democratic primary race for the seat currently held by Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson and throwing his support to Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes.
Lasry, son of Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry, had spent more than $12.3 million on his own campaign, but had remained in second place in recent polling. In announcing his decision, Lasry endorsed Barnes, saying he believed the lieutenant governor had the best chance of beating Johnson in November.
Lasry officially announced the decision to end his campaign outside of Fiserv Forum Wednesday afternoon together with Barnes. Lasry cited the Barnes campaign’s strength as the reason for ending his own bid for U.S. Senate.
"I think what prevented us from ever getting over the hump was the broad coalition of support that the Lieutenant Governor has," he said.
His exit gives Barnes a huge advantage heading into the Aug. 9 primary where his principal remaining opponent will be state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski.
Lasry said with only three months between the primary and general elections in Wisconsin, he wanted to end his campaign as soon as he knew he would not win.
"Every day matters," he said. "The second I realized that there was no path forward, we made sure that we did what we thought was best for us to be able to defeat Ron Johnson."
Outagamie County executive Tom Nelson withdrew from the race earlier this week, also endorsing Barnes.
"I am honored to have their support," Barnes said of Lasry and Nelson.
At a campaign event in Madison, Godlewski said she has no plans to drop out of the race.
"There's nothing new here," she said. "We've got 13 days left, we know voters are right now just paying attention, and we're going to continue to push that forward."
In a statement, Johnson campaign spokesperson Ben Voelkel said the remaining candidates in the Democratic primary are aligned with President Joe Biden's policies.
"That vision for the future will be a tough sell for so many Wisconsin families that are already suffering from record inflation, high gas prices, out of control crime and an unsecured border," it read.
Republican National Committee spokesperson Rachel Reisner said in a statement that Lasry’s exit "will ensure a third term for Senator Ron Johnson." The Republican Party of Wisconsin echoed the sentiment in a statement, referring to Barnes and Godlewski as "left wing extremists."
According to University of Wisconsin-La Crosse political science professor Anthony Chergosky, Lasry’s campaign was focused on being the right candidate to beat Johnson, and he spent "lavish" amounts of money spreading that message.
"He has spent his own money to drive a very disciplined message, and that discipline message has been his potential to beat Ron Johnson," Chergosky said.
Lasry announced his run in February 2021. He was endorsed by numerous labor organizations, including the Wisconsin Pipe Trades Association, Teamsters Joint Council 39 and IATSE Local 18.