Mr. Barnes, 35, is entering the primary as the clear favorite after three of his main competitors dropped out of the race in a week at the end of July: Alex Lasry, a Milwaukee Bucks executive; Tom Nelson, Outagamie County Director; and Sarah Godlewski, the state treasurer. All three have supported him.
To consolidate support, Mr. Barnes, who is the state’s first black lieutenant governor and would be the first black senator if he won, ran a tight campaign focused entirely on jobs and rebuilding the middle class. In an interview, he said his campaign had benefited from the kind of coalition building he did as a community organizer. He also said it amounts to a wider recognition among Democrats that the stakes are simply too high for infighting.
“This is about uniting the party, but it is also about uniting the state,” Barnes said.
He leads in fundraising and branding among his remaining rivals, including Kou Lee, a restaurant owner; Steven Olikara, a musician; Peter Peckarsky, investigative journalist, attorney and consultant; and Darrell Williams, a state emergency management administrator.
He has received approval from both progressive Democrats such as Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, as well as centrists including Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina.