Ron Johnson, Wisconsin GOP Senator, to seek re-election

WASHINGTON – Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin who over the past year has become the Senate’s main provider of disinformation about the elections and the coronavirus pandemic, announced on Sunday that he would seek re-election for a third term .

Mr Johnson, 66, had pledged to step down after two terms but opened the door to a third shortly before the 2020 presidential election.

His entry into the race is sure to draw enormous attention to Wisconsin, a tightly divided political battlefield where Governor Tony Evers, a Democrat, faces his own tough bid for reelection in a race that could determine control of the systems. state elections ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

“Today, I announce that I will continue to fight for freedom in the public domain by running for office,” Mr Johnson wrote in an essay published in the Wall Street Journal on Sunday.

Mr Johnson’s move follows an announcement on Saturday by another retired Senate Republican, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, that he would run for a fourth term.

The Wisconsin Senate contest is expected to be among the tightest in the country. Mr Johnson is hated by Democrats and has drawn a double-digit number of challengers vying to face him in the general election. Local Democrats have been fundraising for nearly a year to build a voter turnout machine for the 2022 midterm elections.

When Mr Johnson first entered politics in 2010 as the self-funded CEO of a plastics company founded by his wife’s family, he defined himself as a citizen lawmaker unlike Sen. Russ Feingold, a Democrat who had held public office for 28 years. year. Mr Johnson was brought to power by that year’s Tea Party wave and then defeated Mr Feingold again in 2016 as Donald J. Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to win Wisconsin in 32 years old.

From the start, Mr Johnson has pledged not to serve more than 12 years in the Senate, but he began to reconsider privately after the 2018 election, when Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives and won. narrow wins in elections across the state of Wisconsin. He wrote on Sunday that when he reiterated his two-term pledge in his 2016 run, he had not anticipated “the Democrats'” complete takeover of government and the disastrous policies they have already inflicted on America and the world “.

Suddenly the leader of the Wisconsin Republicans and the sole GOP official elected to a statewide post, Mr Johnson wavered on his promise amid intense lobbying from Republicans in Wisconsin and Washington. They argued that if they did not run again, the party would jeopardize a seat that could tip the scales in the Senate in 2023.

Mr Johnson wrote that he was seeking a new term because “I believe America is in peril”, adding: “While I would like to retire quietly, I don’t think I should. “

This year, Mr Johnson has been at the forefront of two of the most prominent streams of disinformation circulating within the Republican Party – bogus allegations about election administration and public health.

In the days following the 2020 election, he challenged the victory of Joseph R. Biden Jr. At a Senate hearing in February, he read in the transcript a report wrongly suggesting that the assault on the Trump-inspired January 6 vs. Capitol had been sparked by “false Trump supporters.” In November, he began urging Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin to take control of federal elections in the state, arguing they could do so without governor’s approval, despite decades-old Supreme Court rulings. the United States and the Supreme Court of Wisconsin who say the opposite.

Other than Mr Trump, there may be no top Republican official who has made more false claims about the coronavirus and its vaccines than Mr Johnson. He said he would not get the vaccine and promoted the discredited Covid-19 treatments and refused to encourage others to research the vaccines. In December, he falsely claimed that gargling with mouthwash could help stop transmission of the virus, a claim that has drawn criticism from the Listerine maker.

While Mr Johnson’s misrepresentation has accelerated recently, it dates back years. During his 2010 campaign, he said climate change was caused by “sunspots” and that excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere “helps trees grow”.

For Wisconsin Democrats, Mr Johnson is both their biggest fundraising bogeyman and a figure many of them see as an embarrassment to the state like Senator Joseph McCarthy.

“It is an active threat to American democracy, a threat to public health and an economic saboteur of the middle class,” said Ben Wikler, chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party. “His only redemptive quality in public life is that in 2022, he will inspire Democrats to organize and come forward.”

Democrats vying to challenge Mr Johnson include Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes; state treasurer Sarah Godlewski; Tom Nelson, the Outagamie County executive, which includes Appleton in Wisconsin’s Fox Valley; Alex Lasry, an executive on the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team, and a handful of less well-funded candidates. None of the Democratic challengers are as well-known in the state as Mr Johnson.

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