After a close loss to U.S. Senator Ron Johnson in Wisconsin’s senate elections last year, Mandela Barnes, Wisconsin’s 45th Lt. Governor, is putting his efforts behind continuing the push for people from underrepresented or marginalized backgrounds to have a shot in politics. With the newly announced The Long Run PAC, Barnes is looking to establish support for candidates who might not otherwise receive the funding and connections needed to run a successful campaign. It started as a mission to support candidates of color, LGBTQ+ candidates, young candidates, and working-class candidates who are new in the field and continuously being asked: “Are you ready?” and “Can you win?”
“The thing about it is, the question comes from everybody,” Barnes told Madison365. “It’s not a particular group or race of people that asks the question, it just always gets asked. It creates a barrier and creates a burden for candidates, as well. Sometimes it can impact a candidate’s own confidence. Whether they believe in themselves as ready, it makes them question whether they are actually ready or not, when they’re more than ready. So what that means is that it would help be able to close the gap … get people to show up early, and invest in candidates to help get them off the ground.”
With his own personal experience being questioned not only for last year’s senate race, but throughout his career, Barnes is certain that this step forward will be an important signal for people from marginalized communities to keep pushing. While Barnes was sure that no campaign or journey to office is easy, the necessity to carve a path for current and future candidates proves how crucial this PAC will be in getting the right people in the right positions.
“There are a lot of issues, and they are not going to solve themselves,” Barnes said. “People who are close to the issues should have a say in terms of how we overcome those hurdles and struggles. People who are dealing with the worst of it may not have an outlet to go into leadership…If there’s unnecessary hurdle after unnecessary hurdle, then we’ll never be able to solve our biggest problems.”
While it is important to have people representing themselves and sharing their ideas and opinions on issues, Barnes also spoke to the importance of staying aware of the practices and engagement level of already elected representatives. As The Long Run PAC looks to increase the chance for candidates who are often counted out, it continues to be an important aspect of the process to also demand recognition of these communities by those who can make change in the present.
“New voices and new perspectives are always necessary to advance us as a society,” said Barnes. “I think we should do a better job at welcoming and inviting those perspectives as well, because these are people’s actual lived experiences, and too often it gets ignored…You get people who are experiencing the challenges, but don’t get to play any sort of role or even have a say so in how we determine our way out of those problems.”
Perhaps what The Long Run PAC will help address the most is complacency as Barnes expressed how it can be easy to avoid change and approach issues in the same way regardless of the outcome. The opportunity for candidates across marginalized communities or underrepresented groups to get active in politics will surely be important for the future of the country, and will have a deep impact on developing leaders and expanding perspectives on what direction we should go.
“I think we’re at a moment where there’s a real opportunity like never before to move our communities forward,” Barnes assured. “That’s here in the State of Wisconsin and across the country, but it’s gonna require real leadership. We want to be able to invest in that leadership. We want to be able to show up when people need help the most so they can go on and do great things and change this country for the better.”
To find out more, check out information on The Long Run and The Long Run PAC on Mandela Barnes website here.