The University of Wisconsin chapter of College Democrats hosted a U.S. Senate Candidate Forum in collaboration with the Wisconsin Union Directorate of Society and Politics Thursday evening.

The forum featured seven candidates for the Democrat primary election for the U.S. Senate, occurring Aug. 9 2022. Candidates discussed their policy agenda and answered questions about how they would fulfill the duties of a senator.

In attendance were Democrat candidates Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, current State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, Alex Lasry, Steven Olikara, Peter Peckarsky, Tom Nelson and Jeff Rumbaugh.

Nelson said his policy priorities were providing economic and health security by increasing minimum wage and access to higher education in addition to creating better access to jobs that offer healthcare. Nelson also said he will address the climate crisis by supporting the Green New Deal.

Other candidates also leaned on anecdotal experiences to capture the audience’s attention. Current Lieutenant Governor Barnes shared stories of growing up middle class in Wisconsin’s largest city, Milwaukee.

Barnes said his campaign was focused on rebuilding the middle class, fighting climate change and providing leadership to save democracy. Barnes said he has worked with multiple UW student organizations to address climate change in Wisconsin and used this as a point of emphasis in his fight for climate change, though he did not specify the student organizations he has collaborated with.

Nonprofit leader and entrepreneur, Steven Olikara, said UW was where he realized politics was the best way he could help the environment.

“I am the only Badger up on this stage,” Olikaria said. “I spent lots of time in this building, this campus is where I found my love for politics.”

Olikara stressed that too many politicians have lost sight of their purpose in politics — focusing too much on themselves, rather than the greater good.

Peckarsky also leaned on his educational background to get the attention of the audience, saying he earned degrees from both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Case Western Reserve University. Peckarsky said his campaign was focused on providing the next generation with what it needs to succeed, which he said can be accomplished by eliminating student debt in an equitable fashion and expanding access to healthcare.

Similarly, State Treasurer Goldewski said her policy goals were improving quality of life for Wisconsin citizens through good wages, jobs and benefits.

Jeff Rumbaugh said his campaign was also people-focused, with the ultimate goal of giving a voice to the voiceless.

Milwaukee Bucks Senior Vice President, Alex Lasry, said he was tired of the inaction happening in Wisconsin. Lasry talked about Wisconsin’s brain drain.

“Our best export is our people,” Lasry said. “People are growing up here, using our education system, then going somewhere else.”

Lasry said another of his goals was giving Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin a stronger partner in Washington.

All candidates acknowledged the importance of this election in flipping the U.S. Senate majority, which could help eliminate procedures and practices that currently prevent progressive legislation from being passed.

The primary election is on April 5, 2022 and will determine which candidate will represent the Democratic Party. The candidate who receives the most votes will face Republican incumbent Ron Johnson in the Nov. 2022 election, according to the Wisconsin Election Commission.

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