Republicans and Democrats have something on which they can agree: Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes will be an anchor on Gov. Tony Evers if Barnes seeks re-election.
While GOP leaders must hope Barnes hangs in there, Evers and his braintrust almost certainly are grappling with how to nudge him off the ticket.
The clincher as to Barnes’ liability are the cap-and-gown pictures he posted on his Twitter account. How he came to be so attired, and what “diploma” he is holding, remain a mystery. What matters, in political terms, is that third party groups now have visuals to frame a narrative of unpaid taxes, unpaid parking tickets, and false claims about college graduation.
One option for Barnes if he wants to bail out Evers is simply to not seek a second term. A variant on that would be for Evers to name him to a state government position in return for his resignation. This could even be played out as a “promotion.” Or maybe his “alma mater” will come to the rescue and belatedly identify reasons for the “incomplete” grade that were beyond Barnes’ control.
In my memory I can’t recall a time when a lieutenant governor became a significant campaign issue. Perhaps Barnes can escape that fate given that the election is more than three years away.
Naturally, race will be a part of the story that is still to play out. Public caution will be the word, whereas in private leaders in both parties will be gauging the impact of Barnes’ status as a statewide African American office holder.
I have yet to see whether Evers has been asked for comment. This is an instance where his spinners will earn their keep.