Statewide Candidates Hold October Debates

October has been the month for political debates in Wisconsin as candidates try to close the deal with voters in the final weeks before the general election on November 8. Read on for more information about the debates between candidates for statewide offices.

U.S. Senate (October 7 & 13)

Incumbent U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R) debated challenger Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes (D) for the first time on October 7. Fox 6 published a full video of the debate. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published written coverage of the debate. Abortion and crime were the top issues discussed by the candidates. Barnes highlighted his support for access to abortion, while Johnson said he believes Wisconsin should have a statewide referendum on the issue. Johnson criticized Barnes’ support for bail reform and past statements about reallocating law enforcement resources.

Johnson and Barnes debated for a second time on October 13. NBC 26 published a full video of the debate. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel published a highlight reel and written coverage of the debate. Law enforcement and abortion were again the top issues. The candidates largely agreed about U.S. support for Ukraine, while Barnes criticized Johnson’s calls to reform how Social Security and Medicare are financed.

Wisconsin Governor (October 14)

Incumbent Gov. Tony Evers (D) debated Republican challenger Tim Michels on October 14. Fox 6 published a full video of the debate. Various news outlets provided written coverage of the debate:

Key issues discussed by the candidates included crime, abortion, and education. On crime, the conversation largely revolved around shared revenue for local governments as a means of improving law enforcement. On abortion, Michels said he was pro-life but would sign a bill to update the state’s abortion ban, while Evers highlighted his support for expanding abortion access. On education, Evers said he wants to increase spending for public schools, while Michels promoted universal school choice as a solution for underperforming public schools.

Wisconsin Attorney General (October 16 & 27)

A debate between incumbent Attorney General Josh Kaul (D) and challenger Fond du Lac District Attorney Eric Toney (R) aired on WISN 12 on October 16. The candidates sparred over Toney’s claims that Kaul has mismanaged the Department of Justice, while Kaul highlighted his own refusal to enforce Wisconsin’s ban on abortions while suggesting that Toney would use the office to enforce it.

Video of the debate was published online in several parts:

Kaul and Tony will meet again on October 27 in a debate sponsored by the State Bar of Wisconsin. The debate will be broadcast live on television and livestreamed online.

Read our election preview to learn more about the political environment in Wisconsin this year. For a full list of state executive and legislative candidates and other information about the 2022 elections, check out our issue update page.