RACINE – Two days after securing a primary election victory to become the Democratic Party’s candidate for U.S. Senator, Mandela Barnes brought his campaign to Downtown Racine on Thursday morning with stops at a pair of Black-owned small businesses.
“It’s been wild in a good way,” Barnes said in a conversation with Tywon Davidson, owner of Market on Main, 433 Main St.
The 35-year-old lieutenant governor, under Gov. Tony Evers, is attempting to unseat a two-term incumbent Republican, Sen. Ron Johnson.
But Barnes’ stated purpose in visiting the Market on Main convenience store/deli and the Regal Society clothing and accessories boutique, 302 Main St., was to discuss issues faced by minority-owned businesses.
Barnes’ Plan to Support Wisconsin’s Small Businesses
“One of the biggest barriers is access to capital,” Barnes said. His campaign’s “Plan to Support Wisconsin’s Small Businesses” notes that small business assistance packages, which the federal government offered in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020-21, included credit history requirements that made it difficult for minority business operators to get needed financial help.
The Barnes plan includes “pushing for unrestricted grant funding” for those credit-challenged businesses and forgiveness of federal Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) of less than $150,000. Read the full plan here.
Davidson, 44, opened his business in late 2020. The timing of the opening meant that he was not eligible for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan from the federal government. However, he was able to obtain a state-administered Wisconsin Tomorrow Main Street Bounceback Grant that helped the store stay afloat in its first year. He said his current challenge is generating sufficient capital to add sales inventory that will keep customers coming back.
“Business has been pretty good this summer. That’s when we see the most foot traffic,” he said. “I’m seeing a lot of new people. Hopefully, they’ll keep coming back during the winter.”
In addition to operating Market on Main, Davidson does IT support work for an employer and works an overnight shift at a group home. His long-term goal for the business is to add a kitchen in the back to be able to serve hot foods.
“I stay optimistic. It’s not a matter of if, but when,” he said.
Davidson and Barnes both commented that running a small business and campaigning for U.S. Senate have something very much in common – extremely long work days.
“I’m glad to see you’re hanging in there,” said Barnes.
Barnes’ next campaign stops
After the Racine stops, the Barnes campaign on Thursday included meeting with manufacturing and trade workers in Green Bay at noon and a 3 p.m. rally at a dairy farm outside Cambridge (in far-eastern Dane County).
He was to be joined by Wisconsin’s other U.S. Senator, Democrat Tammy Baldwin, at the latter two stops.
(Note: The Barnes campaign’s advance schedule indicated that the Thursday morning stops would begin at Market on Main followed by Regal Society. Instead, the campaign entourage stopped first at Regal Society, so his comments made at that business could not be included in this story.)
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct information about Mr. Davidson’s Wisconsin Tomorrow Main Street Bounceback Grant. The Racine County Eye apologizes for the error.
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