Who am I?

My name is Mandela Barnes, a candidate for State Representative of the 11th Assembly District in the State of Wisconsin, and my background is community organizing. I was most recently the director of MICAH, an interfaith, social justice based commuity organization in Milwaukee. MICAH is comprised of over 30 congregations mainly in the inner-city, but including surrounding areas. The focus of my work and the entire organization is Jobs & Economic Development, Education, Immigration, and Treatment Instead of Prison.

I was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to a union auto worker and public school teacher. I graduated from John Marshall High School, and went on to attend Alabama A&M University. In college, I became very active in organizations like the NAACP and Student Government Association, which gave me my first taste of political activity and community service. Immediately after college, in 2008, I got my first real-world experience in organizing with the Democratic Campaign Management Program, as a field organizer on a congressional race in Northwest Louisiana. Although the race was unsuccessful, I earned a lifetime of experience.

In 2009, I made my way back to Milwaukee, jobless, but still inspired to serve. I was done with college, and I had work experience, but I found myself in the office of Mayor Tom Barrett as an unpaid intern. That position lead me to the front desk as the receptionist in the office. It was not my ideal career path, but it allowed me to interact with the public as the front line of the office, and I had the opportunity to meet whoever walked in the front door. I met a number of interesting and powerful people, one who eventually offered me an opportunity at the Milwaukee Area WorkForce Investment Board as a Youth and Program Specialist.

During this period, I became an active member in a number of organizations around town, and a Board Member of the ACLU of Wisconsin. I also had the opportunity to work on the 2010 midterm election as a canvass director in low income neighborhoods of Racine, Wisconsin. When Governor Scott Walker, dropped the bomb on our State, I became very active in the labor movement. It was a direct attack on the type of middle class/union household that reared me. I was able to tour the State with Reverend Jesse Jackson on a college tour, and meet amazing people everywhere who were just as engaged as I was. It made me realize that community organizing is where I belonged. It was a divine engagement between MICAH and myself, as they were in search of an organizer, and I was in search of another opportunity to organize.

I have recently decided to pursue public office, as a State Representative in Wisconsin, because the time is now. I cant say that Im tired of standing on the sidelines, because I never have. Im just ready to take my organizing to the next level.

Why am I running?

I have wanted to run for office for some time now. I have been able to help candidates get elected and work in the office of an elected official. Those opportunities gave me a first hand experience of what good can actually be done with the right amount of effort from an elected official. Organizing made me realize that it was time to take my leadership to the next level.

I am running to provide strong progressive leadership for inner city Milwaukee in the Wisconsin State Legislature. In the last year, working class people, and even people looking for jobs in the state of Wisconsin have been the target of a litany of attacks by a radical right wing agenda. We have been the test case for a broader agenda going on around the entire country.

As an organizer, I have had the opportunity to work on two of most pressing issues in the area, jobs and education. A recent study showed that as high as 55% of African American males in the City of Milwaukee were jobless. When we continue to cut funding for public education, we see schools close and classrooms become more crowded. If we don't support future growth, the negative statistics will only continue to get worse.

There is a lot that can be done in the State legislature, and much of the progressive agenda that we push at the local level, requires action from the State to become reality.

My Goals

My top goals are addressing the jobs crisis, specifically in inner-city Milwaukee. We have a lot of training, but the positions aren't there to be filled. Secondly, the revitalization of our public school system. The first step would be to restore funding, then explore how we can more effectively educate today's students.

My DFA Values

This legacy campaign is missing this information

My Campaign is People Powered!

Since day one, my campaign has been an entirely volunteer-run operation.

A win for me will only happen with direct voter contact, me personally meeting them where they are.

My biggest support comes from other people in community organizations.

I am a product of the community, and my campaign is run like a community organization.

Voice support


  • Craig Williams
  • Mandela Barnes, WI
  • Jim Crail, WI
  • Jeanette Lambrecht, WI
  • Christian Smith, AL
  • Mandela Barnes, WI
  • Tillie` Smith, LA
  • Jerome Stewart, NC
  • Melissa Sargent, WI

About the Endorsement Process

The driving force behind all DFA endorsements is our members. We recognize that all politics is local and that what is considered progressive in Los Angeles may be very different from what's considered progressive in Louisville. For this reason, DFA does not have a litmus test of specific progressive positions for which a candidate must stand. Our endorsement is heavily weighted based on these questions:

• Will the candidate move the progressive movement forward in their community?
• Does the candidate have substantial support from our local members?
• Do the candidate's positions and policies fit into the broader progressive movement?
• Is the campaign people-powered and the candidate working to win?

If you have questions, or want to let us know about a candidate in your neighborhood, please call us at (802) 651-3200 or email us at [email protected] .

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