State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski hits the campaign trail in Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race

State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski, a 2022 U.S. Senate candidate, right, talks with Natasha Jules, one of the family owners of Jewels Caribbean Bar & Restaurant, during a stop in Milwaukee on Monday, April 19, 2021, at the business at 2230 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

There’s nothing like getting an early start to the 2022 race for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin.

More than 470 days before the Democratic primary, state Treasurer Sarah Godlewski hit the campaign trail for the first time Monday, stopping in Milwaukee to meet with small business owners on the city’s north side.

She was ready for campaigning during the pandemic, wearing two face masks, elbow bumping with participants and also revealing she recently got her first COVID-19 vaccine, a dose of Moderna.

Godlewski talked about the problems facing small businesses during the pandemic.

And she vowed to bring change to Washington, D.C., contrasting her goals with Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, who still hasn’t announced if he’ll seek a third term next year.

“We have a senator in Washington right now who says people aren’t struggling,” Godlewski said as she convened a discussion. “He couldn’t be more disconnected from Wisconsin and quite frankly reality.”

She also expressed support for the Biden administration’s push for an infrastructure bill, voting rights legislation and “common-sense” gun reform.

“My heart breaks, it just continues to break because of what happened in Kenosha,” Godlewski said of the Kenosha County tavern shooting that killed three men and injured three others.

Natasha Jules, left, talks to Sarah Godlewski,  a 2022 U.S. Senate candidate, during Godlewski's campaign stop in Milwaukee on Monday, April 19, 2021, at her family business, Jewels Caribbean Bar & Restaurant at 2230 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Jules is joined by her sister Lennora Jules, right, also an owner.

“We saw it in Austin, we saw it in Indiana and it’s clear that we’ve got a gun violence problem in this country,” she said. “We’ve got to do something about it.”

On her first stop Monday, Godlewski visited family-run Jewels Caribbean Bar & Restaurant, 2230 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. She was due to make another stop in Brown Deer.

Natasha Jules, one of the owners, showed off the restaurant to Godlewski and talked about the struggles of operating a business during the pandemic. Hours have been slashed. Jules expressed hope that business would pick up as more people get vaccinated.

“This is a social place,” Jules said. “People have been cooped up for so long.”

“You need to create jobs in the community,” Lucile Jules, the family’s matriarch, said as she appealed directly to Godlewski.

“The people want to work,” she said. “They don’t want charity. They want work.”

Godlewski said she agreed with Lucile Jules: “Amen.”

Godlewski is looking for running room in what could be a very crowded Democratic field.

Alex Lasry, on leave from his executive role with the Milwaukee Bucks, and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson are already running. So is Gillian Battino, a radiologist.

Others considering jumping into the contest include Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes and Steven Olikara, founder of Millennial Action Project.

The primary will be held Aug. 9, 2022.

Godlewski won’t be deterred by the huge financial resources needed to remain competitive in the race, expected to be the first $100 million Senate campaign in state history. 

“We know Republicans are going to put their money in this race and I’m going to make sure they don’t outspend us.”

Dr. Jennifer Potts talks about the challenges of being a small business owner at a campaign stop by Sarah Godlewski, a 2022 U.S. Senate candidate, on Monday, April 19, 2021, at Jewels Caribbean Bar & Restaurant at 2230 N. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

Godlewski was also unfazed by questions raised about one part of her resume. Over the years, stories and online accounts said she has a master’s degree in public administration from Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Well, I just think it’s another opposition attack to try to deflect from the issues,” she said, adding that she has been clear she attended graduate school but did not receive a master’s degree.