The state Dem Party has cut off Rep. Mandela Barnes' access to its data-rich voter file for the 4th SD, rescinding the contract the two had signed in 2015.
The move comes after the Milwaukee Dem formally announced plans to challenge Sen. Lena Taylor in a primary.
Party spokesman Brandon Weathersby said the contract lapsed after Barnes filed to run for the Senate. Weathersby confirmed the party's Executive Committee voted last week that the agreement had lapsed after "an issue was raised" over the deal.
Barnes said Tuesday state Chair Martha Laning told him Taylor complained about the contract, which was signed 11 months ago. Barnes noted his log-in for the voter file included a reference to the 4th SD, and he gave WisPolitics.com a picture to confirm his account. Barnes said it was no secret he was interested in information for the Senate district.
"We have a senator who's in office now who sees a serious challenge and is doing everything in her power she can to protect herself," Barnes said. "That's very unfortunate because competition can be healthy. Competition is something that should be happening on a level playing field."
Taylor was out of state Tuesday at a conference.
Weathersby said the party was working to "rectify the matter" before Laning spoke with Barnes about Taylor's complaint. The sale was executed while Mike Tate was still chair, and Weathersby said Barnes was offered access to other party voter files.
"The DPW knew about the contract approved by the previous administration and noticed that if Rep. Barnes declared to run for State Senate that there would be a conflict between the arrangement with the previous administration and the Party's current rules," Weathersby wrote in an email. "Once Rep. Barnes declared to run for State Senate the arrangement had lapsed and DPW started to make the changes necessary to ensure that we were operating within the Party's rules."
Campaign finance reports show Barnes paid the state party $1,097 for the file. Weathersby said that money was being refunded.
Barnes said losing access to the file will hamper his ability to target voters while doing doors and other efforts ahead of the Aug. 9 primary. Those familiar with the file say candidates cannot simply print off or download the information to hold onto it once they lose access.
"I'm not just some outside dude showing up from wherever and saying, 'Hey, I want to run against an incumbent,'" Barnes said. "I've been an active member of the party, have contributed financially, have contributed however needed. I guess that's the most frustrating part about it."