Madison, Wis. (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, one of former President Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters, announced Sunday that he would seek re-election in battleground Wisconsin, keeping his promise not to seek a third term. By breaking
Johnson announced his decision via email two days later about his decision with a pair of Republicans telling the Associated Press that he was close to launching a bid. In the past year, Johnson has been a prominent voice in downplaying the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot and the coronavirus pandemic, as well as a vocal Trump supporter.
From the archives (June 2021): If Sen. Ron Johnson is running for re-election in Wisconsin, it appears he will do so as a Culture Warrior
The race is set to be one of the hottest in the country next year at Purple Wisconsin. President Joe Biden won the state in 2020 by less than 21,000 votes, after a similarly narrow victory by Trump in 2016. Johnson won by nearly 5 points in 2010, his first run for office, and again in 2016 after elections by just over 3 points. Democrat Russ Feingold, who held the seat from 1993 to 2011, led Johnson through most of the year in his bid to return to the chamber.
Johnson’s announcement that he would run again came a day after Republican Senator John Thune of South Dakota said he would seek a fourth term. No other Senate retirements are likely beyond Vermont’s Senator Patrick Leahy, five Republicans and one Democrat, who has already announced plans to step down.
Johnson, 66, has long said his priority is to serve just two terms and promised not to run for a third time in 2016.
But Johnson shrugged off a pledge to announce his re-election bid, saying circumstances had changed after Democrats won the White House and took control of Congress.
“As much as I want to rest in a quiet retirement, I don’t think I should,” Johnson wrote in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal announcing his re-election bid, He said the response to the coronavirus pandemic also played a part in his decision to run again.
Johnson, who contracted COVID-19 in October 2020 and has reportedly not been vaccinated, has cast doubt on the efficacy of the vaccines and pushed for unproven treatments. Just last week, Johnson said on Conservative Talk radio, “Why do we think we can create something better than God in terms of fighting disease? Why do we believe the body’s natural immune system isn’t really a miracle? “
From the archives (June 2021): Senate Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is planning a program to publicize adverse vaccine experiences
Johnson has acknowledged conspiracy theories related to last year’s Capitol raid, an attempt to shift the blame for what happened away from Trump supporters.
Johnson has since downplayed the violence, saying that “it didn’t sound like an armed rebellion to me.”
Just before storming the US Capitol a year ago, Johnson objected to the Electoral College vote counting from Arizona. Last year, he told Republicans controlling the Wisconsin state legislature that he should take over control of federal elections.
From the archives (March 2021): Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson’s Comment About Feeling Safe in the Senate During Capitol Riot Called Racist
Republican Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos told the AP on Friday that the legislature has “zero chance” of getting the state’s 10 presidential voters to vote in 2024.
Johnson said he decided not to run again lightly. “Having already experienced increasing levels of vitriol and false attacks, I certainly do not expect better treatment in the future,” he said in his announcement.
Johnson said he never voted with re-election in mind. “The extension of that promise is that I don’t conduct myself worrying about re-election,” he wrote. “When re-election isn’t your primary motivation, those are easy promises – and I honestly have done that.”
Key words (July 2021): Sen. Ron Johnson Says Climate Change Is ‘Crap-‘ at Republican Lunch
Johnson’s opponent will not be known this time until after the August 9 primary. Several high-profile and well-funded Democrats are running, including Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, who wants to be the state’s first black senator; Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Larry; State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and Outgame County Executive Tom Nelson.
“The only donors and corporate special interest groups celebrating Ron Johnson’s announcement are those he has repeatedly bailed out,” Barnes said in a statement. “Let’s get to work and retire this failed senator.”
Barnes, Godlevsky, Nelson and other Democrats blamed Johnson for breaking his promise to serve only two terms.
Johnson’s decision has also had an impact on the Wisconsin gubernatorial race. Kevin Nicholson, a former Marine who ran for the US Senate and lost in the GOP primary in 2018, has said he will run for governor if Johnson seeks re-election.
Nicholson was focused on running for Senate. His website urges supporters to “help Kevin get back to Washington.” In a series of tweets on Sunday, Nicholson said it was no secret that he was considering a run for governor and would announce a decision soon.
Earlier this week, former US Representative Sean Duffy dropped out of the race for Senate or governor.
History is on Johnson’s side in the midterm elections. The party that does not have a White House usually wins seats in midterm congressional elections. For example, former President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party lost 63 seats in the House and six in the Senate in 2010.
Johnson, who exited the Tea-Party movement in 2010, has long been associated with Trump’s hardline policies and politics. The two remained close after Trump’s defeat, with Trump backing Johnson for a third term in April and encouraging him to run.
From the Archives (August 2020): Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson on the defensive on Biden and Ukraine investigation in the wake of intelligence assessments about ongoing Russian election interference