Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, one of former President Donald Trump’s biggest backers, announced Sunday that he will seek reelection in the battleground state, breaking his promise not to seek a third term.
Johnson announced his decision via email two days after a pair of Republicans with knowledge of his decision told The Associated Press that he was close to launching a bid. Johnson, 66, had long said his preference was to serve just two terms and pledged in 2016 not to run a third time.
But Johnson rescinded the pledge in the lead-up to announcing his reelection bid, saying circumstances have changed after Democrats won the White House and control of Congress.
The race is sure to be one of the most hotly contested in the country next year in purple Wisconsin. President Joe Biden won the state by fewer than 21,000 votes in 2020 after a similarly narrow win by Trump in 2016. Johnson won by nearly 5 points in 2010, his first race for office, and then by just over 3 points in 2016. Both times he defeated Democrat Russ Feingold.
Johnson’s opponent won’t be known this time until after an Aug. 9 primary. Several high-profile and well-funded Democrats are running, including Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, who is seeking to become the state’s first Black senator; Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry; state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson.
History is on Johnson’s side in the midterm election. The party that does not hold the White House generally gains seats in midterm congressional elections. Former President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party, for example, lost 63 seats in the House and six in the Senate in 2010.
Johnson, who rose out of the tea party movement in 2010, has long been aligned with Trump’s hardline policies and politics. The two have remained close following Trump’s defeat, with Trump in April endorsing Johnson for a third term and encouraging him to run.