The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Ron Johnson says he will run for third Senate term despite previous pledge to retire

The Wisconsin Republican has become known for his embrace of outlandish conspiracy theories, particularly about the 2020 election and the coronavirus

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) on Capitol Hill last month. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has announced he will seek reelection for a third term this year, despite a previous pledge to retire, saying he believes “the country is in too much peril” for him to leave after his second term.

In an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal on Sunday, Johnson, a staunch ally of former president Donald Trump, explained that he had not anticipated that Democrats would take over the government in 2020.

“As I have told crowds since my first Tea Party speeches in 2010: This is a fight for freedom. This is not someone else’s fight, this is our fight, and it’s a fight we absolutely must win,” Johnson wrote. “I believe America is in peril. Much as I’d like to ease into a quiet retirement, I don’t feel I should.”

He added that “countless people” have encouraged him to run.

Johnson, 66, had promised in 2016 when he ran for his second term that he would retire at the end of it if he won. Earlier this year, the senator waffled on that promise, telling reporters that he had not decided yet whether to run for a third term.

Johnson has become known for his embrace of outlandish conspiracy theories, particularly about the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. He voted against confirming Joe Biden’s electoral college win and supported an audit of the election results in Wisconsin, which the Democrat flipped in 2020.

Johnson has also played down the storming of the Capitol by a pro-Trump mob seeking to stop the counting of the electoral votes, a siege that resulted in five deaths and left about 140 members of law enforcement injured. The senator drew outrage in February for claiming that the Capitol riot “didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me” but has since doubled down on his stance that Democrats have exaggerated the events of that day.

About a month later, Johnson faced calls from Democrats to resign after he said he “never felt threatened” by the pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, but might have had it been Black Lives Matter protesters.

At the time, Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.) said Johnson’s remarks were “seriously embarrassing” to Wisconsin.

“We’ve moved from just plain old fringe, extremist rants to fringe extremist and racist rants,” Pocan tweeted then.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) has been misconstruing data to support false allegations of violence related to Black Lives Matter and antifa in the summer of 2020. (Video: Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)

Johnson has also railed against coronavirus mandates, questioned the effectiveness of vaccines, and promoted unproven treatments for covid-19, to the point of getting temporarily banned from certain social media platforms.

In June, YouTube suspended Johnson for a week after he shared a clip touting the supposed benefits of hydroxychloroquine in fighting covid-19. At a town hall last month, Johnson recommended gargling mouthwash as an effective treatment for the coronavirus, prompting Listerine to publicly state that it is “not clinically proven to kill the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.”