Alex Lasry, a Democratic nominee for the Wisconsin Senate, plans to pull out of that feature race Wednesday, his campaign confirmed.
The decision means front-runner Mandela Barnes, the 34-year-old state lieutenant governor, is solidly positioned to face Republican Senator Ron Johnson in November.
Lasry, an executive for the NBA franchise Milwaukee Bucks, recognized that he was not on his way to victory and that the calculation was made “to seek party unity now,” said a source familiar with his decision, but is not authorized to comment on the matter in an interview.
A Lasry campaign source said the candidate spoke to Barnes on Tuesday and informed him of the decision. Barnes then started calling people after receiving the news, the source said. The two are scheduled to appear in a press conference later today.
“I’m so grateful to Alex for all the work he’s done to move Wisconsin forward and I’m proud to have his support,” Barnes said in a statement. “During this race I was always proud to call Alex a friend. I look forward to continuing this friendship as we head out.”
Lasry’s decision was first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Recent polls had shown a close race between Lasry and Barnes. Last month’s Marquette University Law School poll showed Barnes supporting 25% of registered Democratic primary voters, while Lasry received 21%. State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski received 9% support in the poll.
Lasry’s retirement from the race comes a day after Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson retired. However, despite his decision, Lasry’s name will still be on the ballot next week. Early voting began Tuesday in Wisconsin, and the state Election Commission reported that nearly 139,000 mail-in ballots had already been returned as of Wednesday.
His exit came despite immense personal expenses for the race. Lasry poured at least $12.3 million of his personal fortune into his campaign — money that made him by far the largest ad spender in the race. As of Wednesday, Lasry spent $10.7 million on TV, radio and digital advertising, more than double what Barnes and Godlewski combined, according to ad-tracking firm AdImpact.
Lasry had several meetings with Sen. Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin in the days leading up to that decision, asking for her guidance, the campaign source said. Lasry also previously spoke to Governor Tony Evers. While the latest Marquette Law School poll had Lasry and Barnes almost neck and neck, the campaign source said there were signs Lasry was slipping in the polls and wanted to act quickly to defeat Johnson.
Barnes, now the unaffordable favorite in the August 9 primary, can turn his attention to the general election against Johnson, who is seeking a third term.
The stakes for the Democrats couldn’t be higher. Senate scrutiny could depend on the Senate race in Wisconsin — one of only two Republican-held seats across the states that Biden won in 2020. The race is classified by the as a toss-up non-partisan political report by Cook.
A native of New York, Lasry moved to Milwaukee in 2014 after his father, Marc Lasry, bought the Milwaukee Bucks with a group of investors. The younger Lasry has since served as senior vice president for the basketball franchise.
He launched his campaign in early 2021, promoting his work with the organization, his efforts to bring the 2020 Democratic National Convention to Milwaukee, and his support for a higher minimum wage and racial justice and movements. He also referred to himself as a “Make it in America” Democrat in many ads, earning him the support of many union leaders in the state.
However, Lasry never overtook Barnes’ lead in the polls.
Barnes, on the other hand, has gained even more momentum in recent weeks amid a string of high-profile recommendations — including from Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Vermont’s Bernie Sanders and New Jersey’s Cory Booker. He was early in calling himself a progressive in the race — a move some political observers are making have already noticed attracted attacks from Republicans.
Barnes, who takes his middle name in honor of the former South African president and anti-apartheid activist, grew up in downtown Milwaukee and attended college at Alabama A&M, a historically black university. He worked as a community organizer before winning a seat in the Wisconsin State Assembly in 2012, representing a portion of Milwaukee’s north side.
After winning the 2018 Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor, Barnes and now Governor. Tony Evers overthrew Scott Walker, a two-year Republican. This victory made Barnes the first black man to hold office and only the second black man to ever win a statewide race in Wisconsin. He would be the first black senator to represent Wisconsin if he wins the general election against Johnson.
Ben Kamisar and Joe Maronski contributed.
https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2022-election/alex-lasry-drop-wisconsin-democratic-senate-primary-sources-say-rcna40262 Alex Lasry is dropping out of Wisconsin Democratic Senate Elementary School