MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Treasurer Sarah Godlewski joined the growing ranks of Democrats running for U.S. Senate on Wednesday, launching her bid for the seat in the battleground state currently held by Republican Sen. Ron Johnson who has yet to say whether he will seek a third term.
Godlewski, a native of Eau Claire who was elected treasurer in 2018, announced her candidacy in a video where she also lambastes Johnson as a conspiracy theorist more loyal to former President Donald Trump than the citizens of Wisconsin. She was not made available for interviews.
Godlewski said she will help bolster small businesses, fight climate change, raise the minimum wage, lower prescription drug costs, reform the criminal justice system and get rid of the Senate filibuster.
“Ron Johnson has spent his time covering up for Donald Trump, denying climate change, and catering to the super wealthy,” Godlewski said in the video. “Instead of conspiracy theories, we can focus on actually helping families.”
A spokesman for Johnson declined immediate comment. Anna Kelly, spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Republican Party, accused Godlewski of embellishing her accomplishments and “failing to deliver anything of substance.”
Godlewski, 39, joins other Democrats Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson already in the race. Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes is among others also considering a run.
The race is expected to be one of the hardest fought in the country with the evenly divided Senate at play and Wisconsin narrowly split between Democrats and Republicans. Trump narrowly won Wisconsin in 2016 by less than 23,000 votes and lost the state in November by just over 20,000 votes.
Both Godlewski and Lasry have personal wealth they can tap for the race. Godlewski is married to Max Duckworth, a multimillionaire investor from Maryland. She loaned herself $290,000 in her 2018 campaign for treasurer.
Lasry, the son of a billionaire hedge fund manager, has not said how much of his family’s personal wealth he will invest in the campaign. Lasry loaned his campaign $50,000 at the start. Lasry said he raised more than $1 million in just the first six weeks of the race.
Nelson, a former state lawmaker, does not have personal wealth to tap for the race. Instead, he is positioning himself as more of a folksy progressive, cutting a video where he holds a garage sale to help raise money for the race. He called on Godlewski not to spend any of her own money on the race. Nelson made the same request of Lasry, who ignored it.
Lasry reacted to Godlewski joining the race by saying on Twitter: “We are all here with the same goal, to beat Ron Johnson.”
Godlewski launched her campaign just two days after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that several publications and websites had said Godlewski had a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania, even though she does not. She has an undergraduate degree in peace and conflict resolution from George Mason University and has said in the past that she intended to finish her graduate work but has not yet.
Godlewski formerly worked on Hillary Clinton’s campaigns for president in both 2008 and 2016.
Before running for treasurer in 2018, Godlewski led a bipartisan coalition that worked against a measure on the ballot that spring that would have eliminated the treasurer’s office. Voters rejected it, leaving the state treasurer’s office in place but with few official duties. She chaired a task force on retirement savings that earlier this year released a set of recommendations.
Johnson is one of the biggest targets for Democrats nationally as well as in Wisconsin.
Johnson emerged as one of Trump’s most ardent supporters toward the end of his term. Johnson held a Senate committee hearing on Dec. 16 to look into unfounded election fraud complaints largely perpetuated Trump’s baseless claims. And on Jan. 6, just before the U.S. Capitol was stormed, Johnson objected to counting the Electoral College votes from Arizona.
Johnson has denied charges recently that he’s racist after saying he wasn’t worried about predominantly white protesters who stormed the Capitol, but he would have been concerned had they been Black Lives Matter supporters.
Johnson received the endorsement of Trump last week, who issued a statement urging Johnson to run again in 2022. He has repeatedly said he does not feel like he needs to make a decision any time soon.