Mandela Barnes

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Mandela Barnes
Mandela Barnes.jpg
Member of the Wisconsin State Assembly
from the 11th district
In office
January 7, 2013 – January 3, 2017
Preceded by Jason Fields
Succeeded by Jason Fields
Personal details
Born (1986-12-01) December 1, 1986 (age 31)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Political party Democratic
Residence Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Alma mater Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University
Occupation State Representative

Mandela Barnes (born December 1, 1986) is an American politician and community organizer from Milwaukee. A former state representative, Barnes is a Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin in the 2018 election. He previously served two terms in the Wisconsin State Assembly representing District 11, encompassing northern Milwaukee and a small part of Wauwatosa, but did not run for re-election, choosing instead to compete in the 2016 Democratic Party primary for the Wisconsin State Senate. Barnes lost the 2016 primary race to incumbent Lena Taylor on August 9, 2016.


Barnes was born in Milwaukee on December 1, 1986,[1] the son of a public school teacher and a United Auto Workers member. He attended Milwaukee Public Schools, including John Marshall High School; and graduated from Alabama A & M University. 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.

Political career[edit]

State Assembly[edit]

In April 2012, Barnes announced his candidacy for Wisconsin State Assembly District 11, representing the north side of Milwaukee, challenging incumbent Jason Fields in the Democratic Party primary election.[2] Barnes' campaign made major issues of Fields' support for the school voucher program, and Fields’ opposition to limiting interest rates charged by payday loan companies, whose charges can exceed a 500% annual percentage rate.[3][4] 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.[5]

Barnes defeated Fields in the August 2012 primary, winning the Democratic Party nomination with 2,596 votes to Fields' 1,206.[6] In the November general election, Barnes was considered the presumptive winner, since no opposition candidate filed against him.[7] He received 16,403 votes to 201 scattered votes for others.[8]

Barnes was reelected to his seat in 2014 without facing either a primary or general election challenge.[9]

2016 State Senate campaign[edit]

On April 11, 2016, Barnes announced that he would vacate his Assembly seat 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 at Barnes' announcement, noting both the rarity of Democratic Senate primaries and the 90 percent reelection rate for incumbents in Wisconsin.[10] 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.[11]

Barnes lost to Taylor by a wide margin in the August 9 election, winning only 7,433 votes to Taylor's 11,454.[12]


  1. ^ "Mandela Barnes's Biography". Project Vote Smart. Retrieved 7 November 2012. 
  2. ^ Delong, Katie (10 April 2012). "Mandela Barnes Announces Candidacy for State Assembly". Fox 6 News. Retrieved 9 December 2016. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ Marley, Patrick and Alison Bauter. "Longtime state legislators Fields, Krusick lose in primaries" Milwaukee Journal Sentinel August 15, 2012
  5. ^ Bauter, Alison. "Mandela Barnes unseats incumbent Jason Fields in District 11" Milwaukee Journal Sentinel August 14, 2012 Archived January 27, 2013, at
  6. ^ "G.A.B Canvass Reporting System" (PDF). Wisconsin Elections Commission. 14 August 2012. Retrieved 9 December 2016. 
  7. ^ [ Richmond, Todd. "13 Wis. incumbents survive legislative primaries" RealClearPolitics August 15, 2012]
  8. ^ "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
  9. ^ "2014 Fall General Election Results". Wisconsin Elections Commission. 14 November 2014. Retrieved 9 December 2016. 
  10. ^ Williams, Justin (11 April 2016). "Rep. Mandela Barnes Challenging Lena Taylor for Seat on Wisconsin Senate". Fox 6 News. Retrieved 9 December 2016. 
  11. ^ Edmondson, Catie (3 July 2016). "Lena Taylor and Mandela Barnes Face Off in Closely Watched Race". Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 9 December 2016. 
  12. ^ "G.A.B. Canvass Reporting System County by County Report: 2016 Partisan Primary" (PDF). Wisconsin Elections Commission. 23 August 2016. Retrieved 9 December 2016. 

External links[edit]