"Too often, fairly or unfairly, the questions of 'Can this person win?' and 'Does this person have what it takes?' come up," Barnes said. "Sometimes those questions aren't always asked in good faith."
To challenge establishment Democratic leaders who focus on the so-called "electability" of candidates and, in many cases, withhold funding that could be the deciding factor in whether they win or lose, former U.S. Senate candidate Mandela Barnes on Tuesday announced the launch of a new political action committee aimed at helping supposedly long-shot contenders.
The Long Run PAC will invest in the campaigns of "women, people of color, LGBTQ, and working-class candidates across the country" and in Barnes' home state of Wisconsin, where he came within 26,000 votes of beating two-term Republican Sen. Ron Johnson last year.
The former lieutenant governor of Wisconsin said that "changemaking candidates" in the Democratic Party are increasingly "redefining what a winning candidate looks like and where they come from," but they continue to face naysayers within their own party—and struggle to secure the funding needed to ensure their campaigns reach the finish line successfully.
\u201cA little bit of *personal news*.... Today I'm launching the @LongRunPAC \ud83c\udfc3\ud83c\udffe\u200d\u2642\ufe0f\n\nRunning taught me that winning a race isn\u2019t just about race day\u2014it\u2019s about how you train and prepare.\n\nRunning for office is the same. It takes time, patience, and people believing in you from the outset.\u201d— Mandela Barnes (@Mandela Barnes) 1675778455
"Every single one of them is being asked the same question: 'Can you win?'" said Barnes in a statement. "The Long Run PAC is my way of making sure the answer to that question is a resounding, 'yes.' Because winning a race isn't just about what you put in on race day, it's about the support, training, and resources you put in from day one."
The PAC plans to announce an initial slate of candidates it is supporting this summer.
During his own campaign last year, Barnes refused to take money from corporate PACs, and raised more than $40 million from grassroots supporters, breaking fundraising records in Wisconsin. Barnes is a supporter of Medicare for All and focused heavily on workers' rights and strengthening unions during his Senate campaign.
In recent years corporate Democrats have shown hostility toward progressive candidates and lawmakers, warning that pushing for government-run healthcare will harm the party despite the proposal's popularity with Democratic voters. Political pundits have also claimed that support for progressive policies will hurt Democratic candidates' chances at the ballot box.
"Too often, fairly or unfairly, the questions of 'Can this person win?' and 'Does this person have what it takes?' come up,” Barnes told Axios on Tuesday. "Sometimes those questions aren't always asked in good faith."
Hand-wringing over "electability," he added, ensures that "there are a lot of 'different' candidates out there who don't get the attention they should be getting or the initial investments that they should be getting."
In recent elections, progressive candidates including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Greg Casar (D-Texas), and Summer Lee (D-Pa.) have won while campaigning on progressive policy proposals, after receiving early grassroots support from left-wing PAC Justice Democrats.
"We're going to make sure these candidates have support through their run, ensuring their final sprint is a sprint to win," said Barnes on Tuesday. "The leaders who are 'different' are the ones who will make a difference—and winning a race depends on what you put in from the start."