Mandela Barnes

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Mandela Barnes
Mandela Barnes Headshot.jpg
45th Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin
Assumed office
January 7, 2019
GovernorTony Evers
Preceded byRebecca Kleefisch
Member of the Wisconsin State Assembly
from the 11th district
In office
January 7, 2013 – January 3, 2017
Preceded byJason Fields
Succeeded byJason Fields
Personal details
Born (1986-12-01) December 1, 1986 (age 33)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Other political
Working Families
EducationAlabama A&M University (attended)
WebsiteGovernment website

J. Mandela Barnes (born December 1, 1986) is an American politician serving as the 45th lieutenant governor of Wisconsin since 2019.[1] A member of the Democratic Party, Barnes is a former state representative.


Early life and education[edit]

Jesse Mandela Barnes was born in Milwaukee on December 1, 1986,[2] the son of a public school teacher and a United Auto Workers member. His first name, Jesse, is also his father's name and his middle name, Mandela, is a tribute to South African anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela. Barnes says he has gone by his middle name "since he was a kid" and has legally changed his name to J. Mandela Barnes. He attended the private Holy Redeemer school in Milwaukee, as well as Milwaukee Public Schools, including John Marshall High School, and Alabama A&M University; however, he never graduated due to incomplete coursework. He worked for various political campaigns and in the office of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, eventually becoming an organizer for M.I.C.A.H., a Milwaukee-based interfaith coalition that advocates social justice.[3] Barnes served as the Deputy Director of Strategic Engagement for State Innovation Exchange, a national progressive public policy organization based in Madison.

Community involvement[edit]

Barnes was active in a number of organizations serving the greater Milwaukee Area including: the NEWaukee Advisory Board, Social X Advisory Board, the Democratic Party of Milwaukee County, Citizen Action of Wisconsin, Advisory Board Member for the New Leaders Council, Community Advisory Board Member for the Milwaukee Secure Detention Facility, NAACP, and the Milwaukee Urban League Young Professionals. He also serves as the 2nd Vice Chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party.

Political career[edit]

State Assembly (2013-2017)[edit]

Barnes in 2013

In April 2012 Barnes announced his candidacy for Wisconsin State Assembly District 11, representing the north side of Milwaukee and a small part of Wauwatosa, challenging incumbent Jason Fields in the Democratic Party primary election.[4] Barnes's campaign made major issues of Fields's support for the school voucher program and opposition to limiting interest rates charged by payday loan companies, whose charges can exceed a 500% annual percentage rate.[5][6]

Barnes defeated Fields in the August 2012 primary with 2,596 votes to Fields's 1,206.[7] His win was seen as a loss for the pro-voucher American Federation for Children, which pumped over $100,000 into primaries in greater Milwaukee to support candidates, none of whom won.[8] In the November general election Barnes ran unopposed.[9] He received 16,403 votes to 201 scattered votes for others.[10]

Barnes was reelected in 2014 without a primary or general election challenge.[11]

Barnes served on the Assembly Committees on Corrections, Education, Jobs & the Economy, and Small Business Development. He also served as the chairman of the Legislature's Black and Latino Caucus and helped lead a number of international delegations to the Middle East and Southeast Asia.[12]

Barnes authored numerous pieces of legislation during his time in state legislative office, including reforms to the parental choice program, juvenile justice reforms, a new grant program for community prosecutors, extending out-of-home care for youth in the foster system, early release reforms, ending the use of solitary confinement in prisons, expanding victim and witness advocacy services, establishing a community schools grant program, investigation of juvenile corrections programs and facilities, expanding eligibility for the earned income tax credit, providing tuition-free enrollment for technical college students, creating an Office of Civil Service, allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to preregister to vote, decriminalization of marijuana, and comprehensive gun control legislation.[13]

2015 confrontation with protester[edit]

In 2015 protester and videographer Miles Kristan recorded video of himself asking Barnes in public "if Wisconsin taxpayers should pay for a Bucks arena," regarding Barnes's vote to fund the future Fiserv Forum. After the encounter, Barnes confronted Kristan and seemingly pushed him. Barnes said he pushed Kristan's camera away but did not assault him.[14][15]

2016 State Senate campaign[edit]

On April 11, 2016, Barnes announced that he would resign from the Assembly to launch a primary challenge against Lena Taylor, the Democratic incumbent in Wisconsin State Senate District 4. Some political observers, such as professor and former State Senator Mordecai Lee, expressed surprise, noting both the rarity of Democratic Senate primaries and the 90% reelection rate for incumbents in Wisconsin.[16] Some also framed the race as reflective of the broader struggle in the Democratic Party, pitting a young progressive challenger against an older, more centrist incumbent.[17]

Barnes lost to Taylor by a wide margin in the August 9 election, with 7,433 votes to Taylor's 11,454.[18]

2018 Lieutenant Governor campaign[edit]

Barnes (at rear) with other elected officials at a March For Our Lives event

In January 2018 Barnes announced his candidacy for lieutenant governor of Wisconsin in the 2018 election.[19] He was endorsed by U.S. Representative Mark Pocan, State Senators Tim Carpenter, Jon Erpenbach, La Tonya Johnson, Chris Larson, and Bob Wirch, and over 23 Democratic members of the Wisconsin State Assembly, including former gubernatorial candidate Dana Wachs. Barnes was also endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers Local 212, Communications Workers of America, Democracy for America, the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters,, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin (PPAWI), International Brotherhood of Teamsters, United Auto Workers WI State CAP Council, and the Wisconsin Working Families Party.[20][21]

In June 2018 Barnes won the Democratic Party of Wisconsin straw poll with 80.9% of the vote, earning 617 out of 763 votes.[22] During the primary, his name was omitted from three newspaper election notices in different counties. The day before the election, his picture was used in a local news report about a fatal motorcycle crash.[23]

On August 14, 2018, he won the Democratic primary in a landslide against Sheboygan businessman Kurt Kober, and became the running mate of Democratic gubernatorial nominee Tony Evers. Evers and Barnes went on to win the November 2018 election, defeating incumbent Republicans Scott Walker and Rebecca Kleefisch.[24] Barnes became Wisconsin's first African American lieutenant governor.[25][26]

Tenure as Lieutenant Governor[edit]

For the 2020 Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Barnes is currently serving as a vice-chair of both the convention and the host committee.[27][28]


  1. ^ "Democrat Tony Evers ousts Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker". Politico. Retrieved November 6, 2018.
  2. ^ >"Barnestorming". Isthmus. August 9, 2019. Retrieved October 25, 2020.
  3. ^ "Micah, Milwaukee Inner City Congregations Allied for Hope". Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  4. ^ Delong, Katie (April 10, 2012). "Mandela Barnes Announces Candidacy for State Assembly". Fox 6 News. Retrieved December 9, 2016.
  5. ^ "WisPolitics Election Blog: Progressives pull off series of wins in Milwaukee primaries".
  6. ^ "Longtime state legislators Fields, Krusick lose in primaries".
  7. ^ "G.A.B Canvass Reporting System" (PDF). Wisconsin Elections Commission. August 14, 2012. Retrieved December 9, 2016.
  8. ^ "Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - Milwaukee and Wisconsin breaking news and investigations". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Archived from the original on January 27, 2013.
  9. ^ Richmond, Todd. "13 Wis. incumbents survive legislative primaries" RealClearPolitics August 15, 2012
  10. ^ "G.A.B. Canvass Reporting System; County by County Report; 2012 Presidential and General Election" Wisconsin Governmental Accountability Board (Report Generated - 11/21/2012 1:57:46 PM); p. 11
  11. ^ "2014 Fall General Election Results". Wisconsin Elections Commission. November 14, 2014. Retrieved December 9, 2016.
  12. ^ "Meet Advisory Council Member: Mandela Barnes | Social X Website - Social X Milwaukee". Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  13. ^ "Representative Mandela Barnes". Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  14. ^ Thompson-Gee, Justin. "Former State Rep. Mandela Barnes strongly considering run for lieutenant governor." CBS 58 Milwaukee, Oct. 18, 2017.
  15. ^ Bauer, Scott (January 10, 2018). "Former state Rep. Mandela Barnes running for lieutenant governor". Wisconsin State Journal. Retrieved November 4, 2018.
  16. ^ Williams, Justin (April 11, 2016). "Rep. Mandela Barnes Challenging Lena Taylor for Seat on Wisconsin Senate". Fox 6 News. Retrieved December 9, 2016.
  17. ^ Edmondson, Catie (July 3, 2016). "Lena Taylor and Mandela Barnes Face Off in Closely Watched Race". Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. Retrieved December 9, 2016.
  18. ^ "G.A.B. Canvass Reporting System County by County Report: 2016 Partisan Primary" (PDF). Wisconsin Elections Commission. August 23, 2016. Retrieved December 9, 2016.
  19. ^ "Former state Rep. Mandela Barnes announces run for lieutenant governor". CBS58. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  20. ^ "Endorsements - Mandela for Wisconsin". Mandela for Wisconsin. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  21. ^ Intern. "Wachs campaign: Endorses Mandela Barnes for Lt. Governor, says "experience matters" | WisPolitics". Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  22. ^ Milwaukee, Urban. "Mandela Barnes Wins 2018 DPW Convention Straw Poll with 80.9% of the Vote". Urban Milwaukee. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
  23. ^ Stanley-Becker, Isaac. "The news was wrong: Mandela Barnes is alive, not dead. He's black, not white. And he just claimed a victory in Wisconsin". The Washington Post.
  24. ^ "2018 Wisconsin Midterm Election Results". Retrieved December 2, 2018.
  25. ^ "Mandela Barnes To Become First African-American Lieutenant Governor". Wisconsin Public Radio. November 7, 2018. Retrieved December 2, 2018.
  26. ^ Press, Gabrielle Mays, FOX 11 News and The Associated. "Mandela Barnes to become Wisconsin's first black lieutenant governor". WLUK. Retrieved December 2, 2018.
  27. ^ "Democratic National Convention Announces 2020 Convention Officers, Schedule of Events". 2020 Democratic National Convention. July 30, 2020. Retrieved August 3, 2020.
  28. ^ Meyer, Maredithe (October 24, 2019). "2020 DNC Host Committee announces official leadership structure". BizTimes - Milwaukee Business News. Retrieved August 15, 2020.

External links[edit]

Wisconsin State Assembly
Preceded by
Jason Fields
Member of the Wisconsin State Assembly
from the 11th district

Succeeded by
Jason Fields
Political offices
Preceded by
Rebecca Kleefisch
Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin