Kloppenburg holds on with 204 vote lead; Abele wins in Milwaukee County

Justice David Prosser and JoAnne Kloppenburg were all smiles before the debate

BREAKING: As of 2:15 p.m. the Associated Press is reporting all 3,630 voting precincts have now reported their vote totals and JoAnne Kloppenburg has maintained her lead with 204 votes.  Election watchers have been eagerly awaiting the results from the Town of Lake Mills to release their tally, after they stopped counting late last night.

The election board in the Town of Lake Mills was planning to finish counting the final 24 handwritten ballots this morning at 8:30 a.m., but was stimied when they did not muster a quorum.  The final count began at 11:45 and the final vote was released moments ago.

The small pockets of votes still left to be counted brought Kloppenburg to the podium earlier this morning, where she told her supporters to go home and wait.

“I just heard from the AP (Associated Press) that the race is too close to call,” she said. “We won’t know until tomorrow (later this morning). It’s not over yet, we’re still here.”

Prosser addressed his supporters at 1:40 a.m. He quipped that it was past his bedtime.

“I’ve been traveling around on the road and jotted a few notes, I have a rip roaring victory speech planned for tonight and a concession speech, but I don’t have a speech for an impass,” he said. “We look at the margin at the present moment and I think we feel pretty good about that considering what is still out. I’m confident things will be better in  the morning.”

“I am very pleased we have sustained the most difficult assault on a person’s character in the history of the judicial race. We have weathered the nuclear blast and I’m still standing.”

However, because the estimated margin of the win will be under .5% of the votes cast, a recount will be automatically funded by the state. Another spokesperson for Prosser said they are prepared for a recount, if needed. State law allows a candidate up to 3 days to submit a written request a recount.

If the Supreme Court race ends up going to a recount, it will be the first one statewide since 1989 according to the Government Accountability Board. That year, a recount was triggered referendum question that would have amended the state constitution to allow targeted property tax relief. That question initially failed by 654 votes out of 811,204 cast. After the recount, it failed by 1,089 votes.

If this election was a referendum on Scott Walker’s agenda, what did the people have to say about the governor’s direction? Stop? Go? We’re not sure?

As the recount begins, watch for legal wranglings, lawsuits being files and a Dane County judge getting involved. This could play out as the 2000 Bush/Gore election, moving all the way to our own Supreme Court where there is a very strong possibility any decision will end in a 3-3 tie.

Kloppenburg ran on a platform of independence and impartiality, but her backers and many of the people who have been protesting Walker’s changes to collective bargaining, education funding and health care distribution saw Kloppenburg as a check on the governor’s power.

During debates she refused to cite any cases where she would have differed with Prosser’s opinion, claiming she wouldn’t take a position without hearing the evidence, arguments and discussions within the court. But she did stray from that when it came to the Justice Michael Gableman’s ethics case, saying she would have definitely voted to sanction the judge for airing misleading campaign ads in 2008.

Her election would swing the state’s high court from a 4-3 moderate/conservative judiciary to a 4-3 liberal/activist bench.

Prosser ran as a moderate, judicial constructionist, ruling on cases based on the literary reading of the law, not his personal or political bias. He pointed to his 12 years of experience on the bench, along with years as a state representative and district attorney as a reason to return him to the bench.

Even as a judicial conservative and former Republican legislature, Prosser is proud to point out cases where he sided with the liberal wing of the court and Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, ruling against police and prosecutors.

Prosser’s campaign manager had described the Justice as “being a complement to the administration” in a December press release, but Prosser disavowed that claim and said he will rule on any issues that may come before the court connected with the administration with an open mind.

Milwaukee County Executive

Chris Abele

Chris Abele is Milwaukee County’s new executive

He will serve for one year, finishing Scott Walker’s term that he vacated when elected governor.

Abele received 62% of the vote, with over 134,000 votes cast for him.

While the county executive race is non-partisan, the candidates – Abele and Jeff Stone – have very partisan pasts. Stone is a Republican State Representative, representing Greenfield and the southwest portion of the county; Abele has been involved in philanthropic efforts for Democratic candidates and liberal causes.

Abele, a political newcomer, used his business and philanthropic connections to build a campaign from scratch in less than four months, donating  $1 million of his own money to the campaign.

Abele ran on a platform of cooperation and fiscal responsibility. He promised to listen to all ideas, no matter who suggested them, and to incorporate both conservative and liberal policies into his administration. The idea of cooperation will be put to the test immediately, as Abele learns to work with the ever-prickly (and self-described “Godzilla”) County Board Chairman Lee Holloway.

Abele will look for savings through consolidation and audits of operations, all in an effort to keep his campaign promise of not raising property taxes.

“I couldn’t be more excited,” Abele said after a rousing introduction by Mayor Tom Barrett. “I have great respect (for Stone) and anyone who seeks public service as a goal.  I look forward to working with Mr. Stone on anything that will advance the interests of the county.”

“If there was one constant in this race, it was the need for change. Right now we are in the historic Pabst Brewery, I’m excited about it because it represents something. It is a reminder of what once was, but also inspires us to what can be.”

Abele noted the county and its entities are facing a budget that slashes education, health and other programs.

“Not far from here the Park East land sits empty,” he said. “It is a representation of what happens when people don’t work together. I don’t see the mayor as a political rival, but as a partner and a friend. We already have an agreement to work on the Park East.  That is a start. Jobs, education — these are common problems.  These are shared problems and we can work on creative solutions.”

“The road ahead is not easy; we have tough decisions, but we will do it more effectively if we do it together. Tonight it is time to celebrate, tomorrow it is time to get to work.”

The campaign seemed to have benefited from the displeasure with the governor’s restrictions on public employee collective bargaining rights. Advertising that emphasized Stone’s connection to the governor and the Representative’s vote in favor of curbing collective bargaining resonated with voters.

Bay View, the East Side and the City of Milwaukee came out strong for Abele. Barrett said he was pleased with the choice of the voters and sees this as an opportunity to bring the divergent views among the municipalities in the county.

“I met amazing people who care deeply for Milwaukee County and the state,” Stone said in a concession speech at 10:06 p.m. “Thank you for all your efforts and I hope to continue to work with you to make Milwaukee and Wisconsin a better place.  We saw a spring turnout we haven’t seen in many years and unfortunately it is not going to go our way tonight. I wish Chris Abele good luck.  We will face challenges together and we will need to work together.”

Abele said he didn’t take the campaign for granted and is excited to get to work to solve the problems facing the county. He was pleased with the turnout and noted that the desire for change in the county brought out the voters.

Stone pulled in 39% of the vote, mainly from his stronghold in the southern and western suburbs of the county. He ran on a platform of political experience gained from over 15 years serving at the local and state level.

Stone also voted for Scott Walker’s budget repair bill, which limited collective bargaining right for public employees. He said he would have handled the situation differently, focusing on arbitration rather than bargaining rights.

Abele will be sworn in on April 21.

Milwaukee County Circuit Court

The only contested Milwaukee County Circuit Court seat was the 14th Branch. Incumbent Pedro Colón, who was appointed to the bench last year by former Gov. Jim Doyle, retains his seat with 87,923 votes. Challenger Glendale Municipal Judge Christopher Lipscomb’s 83,925 votes.

Milwaukee County 10th Supervisory District

In the race to fill the vacated seat left by Elizabeth Coggs when she moved to the state assembly, Eyon Biddle bested Tearman Spencer with 55% of the vote. Biddle received 2,685 votes to Spencer’s 2,237. .

Biddle, is the Executive Director of the Service Employees International Union; Spencer is an attorney and small businessman.

Milwaukee County 14th Supervisory District

With Chris Larson’s election to the State Senate, Bay View and the southeastern suburbs have been without representation at the county level for the past three months. Community activist and stay-at-home dad Jason Haas is facing off with trucking company owner Steven Kraeger to fill the seat.

Haas, who was endorsed by Larson, won this contest with 6,299 votes (57% ). This was Haas’ second run at the seat.

Kraeger received 4,808 votes.

For complete elections results from throughout Southeastern Wisconsin, visit our news partner, WISN-TV Channel 12.


One thought on “Kloppenburg holds on with 204 vote lead; Abele wins in Milwaukee County

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