Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, a Democratic Senate candidate, has a long history with a liberal nonprofit group that aims to defund the police, get rid of law enforcement gang databases, treat 24-year-old criminals as juveniles and make Wisconsin a sanctuary state.
Barnes, who is running to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, served on the board of directors for Citizen Action of Wisconsin (CAW) from 2014 through 2018 and was its secretary in 2017 and 2018. The group endorsed Barnes’ campaign in June, and he said he was "proud" to have its support.
"We’ve worked together for a long time now, and I’m excited about the idea that we can finally get rid of Ron Johnson together," Barnes said on CAW’s podcast, Battleground Wisconsin, in June.
"You are someone who has been a part of our movement and a part of Citizen Action for a number of years," the podcast host responded. "Your agenda aligns with us."
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CAW describes itself on its website as a social justice group working to "improve the lives and life prospects of all working class Wisconsinites, but at the same time disproportionately benefit communities of color because they are the most economically marginalized and impoverished."
CAW’s platform focuses heavily on progressive criminal justice reform, which advocates for a "balanced system of community safety that does not dedicate the majority of the resources to policing," but "instead invests in public health approaches and other harm reduction interventions and alternatives to incarceration."
The group wants to "limit policing" to only potentially violent situations and dedicate resources to providing a "living wage" for social workers and public health workers to address nonviolent encounters.
The group is pushing to pass a state law that would cut the state’s incarceration rate in half within 10 years, and amend existing state law to "eliminate criminal prosecution of youth under age 25 as adults."
Barnes has also repeatedly pushed for cutting Wisconsin's prison population in half.
CAW wants to "immediately" release all elderly convicts from prisons and jails, decriminalize all drugs and voluntary adult sex work, ban the construction of any new prisons and eliminate law enforcement gang databases. The group also wants to "replace police surveillance in schools, and direct resources toward violence prevention."
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CAW wants to make Wisconsin a sanctuary state and "ban local law and state law enforcement from cooperating with ICE or any other federal immigration authorities."
CAW’s platform also proposes a Green New Deal for Wisconsin, demanding the state meet "the international greenhouse gas targets: a 45% reduction by 2030 and 80% by 2050."
"Wisconsin will set a good example for the whole economy by electrifying all state owned vehicles, making all state-owned buildings 100% renewable energy, and installing state owned public charging stations around the state," CAW's platform states. "Initiate a Green New Deal for all public schools by making energy conservation and renewable energy retrofits to all school buildings and using the projects to connect students with green collar jobs."
Mandela has repeatedly said he does not support defunding police, while at the same time saying he wants funding for community services to be redirected from "over-bloated" police budgets.
When reached by Fox News Digital on Wednesday, the Barnes campaign declined to answer a question about whether Barnes’ agenda aligns with CAW.
"As independent fact-checkers have verified, and Ron Johnson himself conceded, Lt. Governor Barnes doesn’t support defunding the police, and has delivered millions in additional funding for law enforcement and crime prevention in Wisconsin," spokesperson Maddy McDaniel said. "Groups that endorse the Lt. Governor are supporting his vision for Wisconsin, not the other way around."
The campaign's response conflicts with what CAW declared in a June press release – that Barnes "will work to advance our platform once elected."
"We do not have to guess about Mandela’s values–we have been working with him since his early days as a social justice organizer," Robert Kraig, CAW’s executive director, said in the release. "He was a founding member of our Southeastern Wisconsin chapter where he helped us build grassroots power and served on our Board of Directors. Most importantly, he supports our bold progressive platform, and will prioritize our two top issues: making health care a fundamental right and transforming the economy to avert runaway global warming in a way that dramatically improves economic and racial equity."
CAW said it would "mobilize our members and volunteers on Barnes’ behalf, including using our proven deep canvass strategy to reach persuadable voters across the state, including building power in rural areas as well as urban areas."