Mandela Barnes, the Wisconsin Democratic Senate candidate, blamed a "packed schedule" for his decision to skip President Joe Biden's appearance in Milwaukee on Monday—after fleeing from a reporter who questioned him about his absence.
The Washington Free Beacon reported last week that Biden's visit caused a political dilemma for Barnes, an outspoken progressive and the state's lieutenant governor, who has been striving to present a more moderate image as he seeks to win over rural and suburban voters. The Democrat has avoided being photographed with Biden, whose approval rating in Wisconsin has cratered to 40 percent.
Barnes told WISN-12 News on Tuesday that he was "really grateful" for the president's visit to Milwaukee's Labor Day festival, but said he was unable to appear publicly with Biden because "we had a pretty packed schedule." Barnes attended the same Milwaukee event at a different time than the president. He said he was in Racine, a neighboring city around 30 minutes away, during Biden's speech.
The candidate's explanation comes after he ducked into a car to escape questions from a WISN-12 reporter about Biden's visit.
"Wanna let us know why you didn't greet the president yesterday … in Milwaukee?" the reporter asked on Tuesday.
Barnes ignored the question and hopped into the back of a black SUV, flanked by his security detail.
Barnes, who is running against Republican senator Ron Johnson in a highly competitive race, has a history of running from tough media questions. In 2019, he blew up after a FOX6 reporter asked him about his failure to pay property taxes.
"This is Juneteenth, and they want to talk about property taxes!" said Barnes, who added, "The check is in the mail," before storming away.
Johnson on Tuesday held a press conference outside a Barnes event and accused the Democrat of "hiding from the local press."