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Thursday, November 13, 2014

 2:31 PM 

Cates won't seek recount

Dem Assembly candidate Dick Cates announced this afternoon he will not seek a recount after narrowly losing to Republican Todd Novak in the open 51st District.

Novak held a 59-vote lead over Cates on Election Night, according to unofficial returns. A WisPolitics.com check of county canvasses in the district found Novak's lead grew to 65 votes. Cates said the margin was too much to overcome.

"I have decided -- reluctantly -- not to ask for a recount," Cates said. "I will continue to serve my community as well as I can and will speak out strongly when our elected leaders vote against the best interests of our community."

Novak's win puts the Assembly GOP majority at 63-36 for the upcoming session.

-- By JR Ross


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

 11:21 AM 

Wright concedes 85th AD race

State Rep. Mandy Wright today conceded the race for the 85th Assembly District to GOP Rep.-elect Dave Heaton.

"After reviewing the final canvass results today, and speaking with both my family and my campaign team, I have decided that I will not seek a recount," said Wright, D-Wausau. "Though the vote was extremely close, I believe that our poll workers, the County Clerk’s staff, and all of those involved in making our democratic process successful, performed their duties seamlessly on November 4th."

-- By Andy Szal


Thursday, November 6, 2014

 2:56 PM 

Senate Republicans retain Fitzgerald as leader, elect Lazich president

Senate Republicans have selected their leadership slate for the upcoming session, retaining Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, as majority leader and elevating Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, to Senate president.

They also selected Rick Gudex, R-Fond du Lac, as president pro tem and Paul Farrow, R-Pewaukee, as assistant majority leader.


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

 3:15 PM 

Shilling opens door to run for Senate minority leader

State Sen. Jennifer Shilling, D-La Crosse, indicated today she is weighing a bid for minority leader.

“Middle class families need an effective voice and strong leadership to represent their values, strengthen our communities and move Wisconsin forward," Shilling said. "Everyone in our state deserves the opportunity to get ahead and we need to find new ways to promote economic growth and prosperity from the ground up. As we look to the future, I will continue to reach out and talk with my colleagues to determine how Senate Democrats can be most effective in advocating for Wisconsin families.”

Shilling did not mention Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, in her statement. But there have been questions on whether he would face a challenge after Dems lost a seat in yesterday's elections and will come back in a 19-14 majority next session.

Senate Dems will caucus Nov. 12.

-- By JR Ross


 10:57 AM 

Jacque, Steineke officially in for Assembly majority leader

State Reps. Andre Jacque, R-DePere, and Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, have officially asked their colleagues for support in running for majority leader.

Steineke, the assistant majority leader, noted in an email to colleagues this morning that he led the Assembly GOP effort to back top candidates, an operation dubbed "leggiepalooza." 

"This work has provided me with invaluable insight into the variety of issues that affect our districts," he wrote. "While we are all citizens of the same state, our districts can be very different. We need to craft our legislation and our message with those differences in mind."

Jacque said in a short interview he has spent the past 70 days helping colleagues seek Assembly seats and is now looking to take a greater leadership role. His efforts include donating to a number of his fellow GOP candidates, according to his campaign finance reports.

"I’m not going to be outworked," he said. 

-- By JR Ross


 10:44 AM 

Ballweg to run for Assembly majority leader

Rep. Joan Ballweg announced this morning she will run for majority leader in the Assembly in what could be a three-way race.

The post is open after Republicans elected the retiring Pat Strachota, R-West Bend, to the the job earlier this year after they dumped Rep. Bill Kramer, R-Waukesha, over allegations of inappropriate behavior.

Assistant Majority Leader Jim Steineke, R-Kaukauna, is also expected to run for the job, as is Rep. Andre Jacque, R-De Pere, according to multiple sources.

Ballweg, R-Markesan, currently serves as caucus chair.

Assembly Republicans will hold leadership elections during a Monday caucus.

-- By JR Ross


 2:32 AM 

Statewide turnout roughly 2.4 million

Statewide turnout for Tuesday's election will likely end up around 2.4 million voters, just short of what the GAB had predicted but still the best showing in a November guv's race in decades.

With 3,555 of 3,568 precincts reporting, just shy of 2.4 million votes were cast in the guv's race for Republican Scott Walker, Dem Mary Burke, Libertarian Robert Burke and independent Dennis Fehr, according to unofficial returns.

The GAB had predicted 2.5 million Wisconsin residents -- or 56.5 percent of those eligible -- would vote.

Along with the final precincts still out early this morning, absentee ballots clerks receive by Friday will also go toward the final number.

If this year's turnout ends up at 2.4 million voters, that would equal about 55 percent of the state's voting age population of 4.3 million.

The highest turnout in a November gubernatorial election in the last 50 years was 52.4 percent in 1962.

See unofficial results in contested races here.

-- By JR Ross


 2:16 AM 

LaFollette wins re-election to secretary of state's post

Dem Doug LaFollette has won re-election to the secretary of state's office, a post he has held since 1973 except for one four-year period.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, La Follette had 1.15 million votes, or 50 percent, to almost 1.07 million, or 46 percent, for Republican Julian Bradley.

 -- By JR Ross


 2:13 AM 

Bewley to hang on

Dem Rep. Janet Bewley appears to have hung on in the open 25th Senate District.

With 202 of the 203 precincts in the district reporting, Bewley had 34,959, or 51 percent, to 33,197, or 49 percent, for Republican Dane Deutsch.  

-- By JR Ross


 1:59 AM 

Adamczyk wins treasurers race

Republican Matt Adamczyk has won the treasurers race over Dem Dave Sartori.

With 97 percent of the vote in, Adamczyk, who has pledged to seek the elimination of the office, had almost 1.1 million votes, or 50 percent. Sartori had 965,803, or 44 percent.

The only constitutional office still hanging out there is the secretary of state's race. Longtime incumbent Doug LaFollette had a nearly 44,000-vote lead on Republican Julian Bradley with 97 percent of precincts in.

 -- By JR Ross


 12:54 AM 

Vinehout wins, Bewley leading 25th

Dem Sen. Kathleen Vinehout has won re-election in a closer-than-expected race.

With 99 percent of the vote in, Vinehout had 35,011 votes, or 52 percent, to 31,754, or 48 percent, for Republican Mel Pittman.

Meanwhile, Dem Rep. Janet Bewley was holding onto her lead in the open 25th in another closer-than-expected race for Dems. With 92 percent of precincts in, Bewley had 32,189 votes, or 51 percent, to 30,615 votes, or 49 percent, for Republican Dane Deutsch.

If those results hold, it would mirror 2010, when Deutsch also lost a close race for what is normally a strong Dem seat. Then, state Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, won re-election with 51.27 percent of the vote over Deutsch, a margin of 1,583 votes.

-- By JR Ross


 12:30 AM 

Bomhack concedes, Republicans at 19 seats in Senate

Pat Bomhack has conceded to GOP Rep. Howard Marklein in the open 17th SD, the Dem's campaign said.

That puts Republicans at 19 seats in the chamber, a pickup of one seat.

It's the third time they've had 19 seats over the past decade, starting the 2005 and 2011 sessions with the same number of seats, according to the Wisconsin Blue Book.

-- By JR Ross


 12:12 AM 

RACC: Novak, Heaton up narrowly with all votes in, would put GOP at 63 seats

Republicans are on the verge of having their largest majority in the Assembly in nearly 50 years if a couple of tight leads hold up.

With all precincts reporting, Republican Todd Novak was leading in the open 51st District over Dem Dick Cates by 59 votes, according to unofficial returns, 10,619-10,560, with all wards in. Meanwhile, with all precincts in, unofficial returns have Republican David Heaton with an 86-vote lead on Dem Rep. Mandy Wright in the 85th District, 11,159-11,073.

ADCC expected recounts to be requested in those races. Absentee ballots can still be counted if they're received by Friday, and the county canvasses also may change numbers.

If the winning margin is less than 0.5 percent, the candidate requesting the recount does not have to pay for it.

"If those numbers don't change, I would fully expect we'll request recounts in both races," said ADCC Executive Director Joel Gratz.

Meanwhile, GOP Rep. Kathy Bernier, who was considered the most vulnerable Republican incumbent in the Assembly, is poised to hold onto her seat in a race with Dem Jeff Peck that wasn't as close as some initially expected.

If the margins in the 51st and 85th hold up following likely recounts, Republicans would have 63 seats. That would be the most seats they've held in the Assembly since the 1957-58 session, when they had 67, according to the Wisconsin Blue Book.

-- By JR Ross

Editor's note: This post has been updated with unofficial returns from the 51st and 85th, where all precincts are now in.


 12:03 AM 

Walker focuses on Washington in victory speech

WEST ALLIS -- Gov. Scott Walker told a cheering crowd at State Fair Park that "we understand that true freedom and prosperity doesn't come from the mighty hand of the government but comes from empowering people to live their own lives," as he won his third statewide election in four years.

Walker, who was up by 9 percentage points when Dem opponent Mary Burke conceded, referred to America and to Washington throughout the speech.

"In America, opportunity is equal, but the outcome is up to you," Walker said. "America is one of the few places in the world where it doesn't matter what your parents do for a living, it doesn't matter what class you're born into, in America, you can do anything you want."

Walker said there is a "sea change" of difference between Wisconsin and Washington, because Washington "is all against something but we are for something."

Walker started off by thanking his family and supporters, but made a point to thank the military. "There are literally hundreds of people from Wisconsin who are still deployed even as we speak, in harm's way. That's something even more incredible than what we're doing here this evening."

The governor also said he had called to thank Mary Burke.

"I know there are disagreements on policy issues," Walker said, "but that picture signifies that she has a great love for her state, just like her supporters did," referring to a photo taken over the weekend of Burke and Walker during a chance meeting on the campaign trail.

The governor repeatedly mentioned dependence on government in his speech, saying that "Washington measures success by how many people are on government assistance, by how many people are on food stamps and how many are on Medicaid," he said. "We measure success by how many people are no longer dependent."

"It's the American dream that talks about the dignity of work and we take a day off to celebrate the Fourth of July and not the 15th of April," Walker said to end his speech, prompting loud cheers from supporters.

Earlier, when Burke's concession speech was shown to the crowd on a large screen, boos and heckles abounded. Many in the crowd -- some of whom were drinking beer sold at the State Fair concession stand -- shook their fists and then began waving and singing, "Nah, nah, nah, nah. Hey, hey, hey, goodbye."

Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch told the crowd, "The third time's the charm."

"Get ready for lower taxes, get ready for more jobs, get ready for we the people to be in charge again," said Kleefisch.

Few fellow GOP lawmakers were in the crowd, but state Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills, watched from the back. Afterward, she told WisPolitics, she had predicted Walker would win the race "either by a very small margin or a blowout."

Darling said the vote "shows most people believe we are on the right track."

Darling noted there should no longer be worry in the business community about the state's "uncertainly about leadership" as they had during the recall election two years ago.

"I think we're perfectly positioned now," she said. "The certainty of a Walker administration for four more years will add stability to our state of Wisconsin and that's a good thing."

-- By Kay Nolan
For WisPolitics.com


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

 11:54 PM 

Operatives: Vruwink loses, Wright down, open 51st close

Dem and GOP operatives say Dem Rep. Amy Sue Vruwink of Milladore has lost her re-election fight with Republican Nancy VanderMeer.

RACC declared VanderMeer the winner, saying she was leading by 1,337 votes and there weren't enough left out to turn that race around. Two years ago, VanderMeer lost to Vruwink by 144 votes.

Meanwhile, Dem Rep. Mandy Wright was trailing Republican David Heaton by 21 votes with only a ward or two out.

And the open 51st between Dem Dick Cates and Republican Todd Novak remains neck-and-neck.

UPDATE: With final numbers in, VanderMeer wins with 11,759 votes, or 53 percent, to 10,495, or 47 percent, for Vruwink.

-- By JR Ross


 11:46 PM 

Roth wins, Vinehout opens up lead

GOP candidate Roger Roth has been declared the winner of the open 19th SD, while Dem state Sen. Kathleen Vinenout has opened up a lead in her race.

Roth's victory over Dem Penny Bernard Schaber gives Republicans 18 seats, and they look to be in strong position to win the open 17th. Republican Howard Marklein has been maintaining a solid lead over Dem Pat Bomhack in that race, now up 54-46 with 82 percent of the vote in. That would put them at 19-14, a pickup of one seat.

Vinehout was neck-and-neck with Republican Met Pittman earlier in the night. But she's now leading 52-48 with 94 percent of the vote in.

Meanwhile, Dem Rep. Janet Bewley is in a closer-than-expected race with Republican Dane Deutsch. With 86 percent of the vote in, Bewley had 52 percent of the vote, a lead of 2,187 votes.

-- By JR Ross


 11:44 PM 

Quinn defeats Smith in 75th; Macco wins 88th

Rice Lake Republican Romaine Quinn is projected to defeat Dem Rep. Steve Smith in the northwestern 75th Assembly District.

With 92 percent of precincts reporting, Quinn led Smith, D-Shell Lake, 55-45.

Meanwhile, with 100 percent of precincts reporting in the open Green Bay-area 88th AD, John Macco had 56 percent of the vote to 44 percent for Brown Co. Supv. Dan Robinson.

-- By Andy Szal


 11:15 PM 

Happ thanks supporters for effort, enthusiasm

JOHNSON CREEK -- Silence fell over the crowd at AG candidate Susan Happ's election night party as Gov. Scott Walker was announced the projected winner in his race for re-election. Dem Happ remained absent, reportedly watching the results with her family in an adjacent room.

The hush of the room was punctuated by cheers as Happ emerged to address her supporters, upbeat and smiling despite learning the race had been called for opponent Brad Schimel moments before.

"If we came up a little short tonight, it wasn't because of any shortage of effort or enthusiasm," Happ told the crowd of around 70. "You were all incredible, and we could not have done any more."

She said the momentum of her entry into the race was complicated by the three-way primary she faced with fellow Dems Jon Richards and Ismael Ozanne, but complimented their progressiveness. Happ called the race "an uphill battle," with an opponent who benefitted from a financial advantage.

She criticized the negative aspects of the campaign, saying she would have preferred to spend more of the campaign discussing issues facing the state.

But she expressed appreciation for the support of her friends and family, calling them a motivating factor in her decision to run. "I'm grateful to you, and the hundreds of thousands who marked an 'x' next to my name."

"Tomorrow is another day; the sun will rise, and the alarm will go off a bit too early, and I'm going to sleep in a little, for a change," Happ concluded, prompting cheers and applause that lasted a full minute, but faded into silence as the candidate made the rounds of the room, then retreated.

Among the lingering crowd, the mood was one of grim acceptance. Supporter Terese Dineen appeared resolute but disappointed. "I expected these results in some way, but the optimist in me wanted to see different numbers."

Dineen said she is concerned about the impact of campaign spending in the race for attorney general, and others in the state and nation.

"We're in a hole, and we're just going to keep digging deeper," Dineen said. "I feel like I have to learn to walk and talk again, because this is a whole different world."

-- By Samantha Nash


 11:04 PM 

Hintz hangs on

State Rep. Gordon Hintz, D-Oshkosh, maintained a slim lead over GOP opponent Mark Elliott as precincts in the 54th Assembly District wrapped up their Election Night counts.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Hintz had 51 percent of the vote to Elliott's 49 percent -- a lead of 653 votes, according to unofficial results.

-- By Andy Szal


 11:03 PM 

Schimel reaches out to Dems in victory speech

PEWAUKEE -- Newly elected AG Brad Schimel offered an olive branch to Democrats and a harsh warning about the drug trade in his victory speech Tuesday night.

Speaking to supporters at the Country Springs Hotel, the Republican Waukesha County DA said he appreciated the 90 fellow DAs and sheriffs who endorsed him, but he vowed to work with all 71 DAs and 72 sheriffs -- including Jefferson County DA Susan Happ, the Democrat whom he defeated.

"I'm proud of her for running," Schimel said. "We're all going to work together to put public safety ahead of politics."

And as he works with those other prosecutors and sheriffs, Schimel said, their shared target will be Wisconsin's growing heroin trade.

"Tonight, I am putting the drug dealers on notice," Schimel said. "You are Public Enemy No. 1 for the Wisconsin attorney general's office."

Earlier, Schimel backers applauded Happ's televised concession speech, booing only when she said Schimel and the news media didn't focus on the issues in the race. In his own speech, Schimel said, "We ran an issues-based campaign that earned bipartisan support."

Among the supporters present was Republican Eric Severson, elected unopposed Tuesday as Waukesha County's new sheriff.

"I'm ecstatic," Severson said. "I think it's great for the state of Wisconsin. I have tremendous respect for Brad."

Before Schimel spoke, his classic rock band, 4 On The Floor, serenaded him with "I Feel Good," changing one lyric to "We got Brad." Once he was done speaking, Schimel picked up his bass guitar and rocked out with his bandmates.

-- By Larry Sandler
For WisPolitics.com


 11:00 PM 

La Follette goes up on Bradley, only Dem leading for constitutional office

Longtime Secretary of State Doug LaFollette has taken a lead on GOP challenger Julian Bradley. 

With 74 percent of the vote in, LaFollette had 50 percent of the vote to 47 percent for Bradley.

If that holds, LaFollette wold likely be the only Dem to hold one of the five constitutional offices.
Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov Rebecca Kleefisch and AG candidate Brad Schimel have all been declared winners in their races, while Republican treasurer candidate Matt Adamczyk was leading Dem David Sartori 49-44 with 74 percent of the vote in.

-- By JR Ross


 10:57 PM 

AP: Voters approve transportation fund amendment

Voters approved a constitutional amendment to wall the state's transportation fund off from other uses, according to the AP.

With 68 percent reporting, 80 percent had voted to approve the measure.


-- By David Wise


 10:56 PM 

Walker says election shows difference between Wisconsin and Washington

Gov. Scott Walker told supporters at his victory party in West Allis that his election showed "the people of this state wanted to be for something."

"A few years ago, we took the power away from the Washington-based special interests and we put it in the hands of the Wisconsin taxpayers," Walker said, saying groups spent millions trying to convince Wisconsinites to "vote against something."

"They're used to politicians that think more about the next election than the next generation. We turned it around ... and that voters of the state said, 'That's the kind of leadership we want.'"

Walker told supporters he measures success "by how many people are no longer dependent on the government," saying calling it "the difference between what we believe in Wisconsin and what we're selling in Washington."

The governor also thanked Dem rival Mary Burke, referencing a photo the two candidates took yesterday in Green Bay and saying she has "a great love for her state."

"Today, we are Wisconsinites more than we are Republicans or Democrats," Walker said, adding he hopes to earn the support or respect of those who voted against him over the next four years.

-- By Andy Szal


 10:43 PM 

Burke concedes, vows Dems will 'get right back up'

MADISON -- Democrat Mary Burke said in her speech conceding the guv's race to Republican Scott Walker that it's okay if the loss “feels a little like getting knocked down,” but vowed “we're going to dust ourselves off and get right back up.”

Burke said what matter most are “the values we hold near and dear.”

Burke said all Wisconsinites deserve a “fair shot” and stressed the importance of public education, affordable higher education, equal pay for women, an increased minimum wage, a strong middle class and protecting the right for women to make their own health decisions.

Burke said that she and Walker may not agree on much, and then with a laugh, conceded “okay not much at all.”

But she said when anyone runs for office they open themselves up to scrutiny and make sacrifices.

“For this, he has my respect,” she said of Walker.

Following the speech, the TVs around the Overture Center flipped from election coverage to a still shot of Burke's campaign logo and the event quickly wound down.

U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, said he "would like to see the Wisconsin state government working again," lamenting that the election could have been a catalyst for bipartisanship in the state.

Madison Ald. Scott Resnick, meanwhile, predicted a second Walker term would result in more municipal cuts, and said although Burke won by a larger margin among UW-Madison students, "preliminary results show lower student turnout than in 2010."

- By David Wise and Briana Reily


 10:43 PM 

CERS feeling good about 17th, 19th, Vinehout race tight

CERS Executive Director Adam Foltz said Republicans are feeling good about the open 17th and 19th districts.

If they win both seats, it would secure at least a 19-14 majority for them, a pickup of one seat.


Foltz said Republicans believe GOP candidate Roger Roth has sewn up the 19th, which covers the Appleton area, over Dem Penny Bernard Schaber. With 79 percent of the vote in, Roth had 56 percent of the vote.

In the 17th, which covers the southwestern corner of the state, Howard Marklein was winning 55 percent of the vote over Dem Pat Bomhack with 49 percent of the vote in.

Foltz said Marklein is over performing in various areas of the district like Green County.

“It would take a pretty seismic change in what’s out there right now for it to break bad on us," Foltz said of the 17th.

Dem Sen. Kathleen Vinehout's race has not been on the radar. But she is locked in a tight race with 61 percent of the vote in. She was narrowly trailing Republican Mel Pittman, but Dem and GOP operatives said they were trying to figure out if the city of Eau Claire was still out for that district. If it was, they expected Vinehout to survive.

-- By JR Ross


 10:29 PM 

Republicans looking strong in top Assembly races

Republicans are in position to expand on their majority in the Assembly, though late returns could change that.

Insiders have been following a handful of top races in the chamber, and here's a quick rundown:

In northern Wisconsin's 75th, Republican Romaine Quinn was leading Dem Rep. Stephen Smith 56 percent to 44 percent with 65 percent of the vote in.

In central Wisconsin's 70th, Republican Nancy VanderMeer was leading Dem Rep. Amy Sue Vruwink 54-46 with 30 percent of the vote in.

In southwestern Wisconsin's open 51st, Dem Dick Cates was leading Republican Todd Novak 49 percent to 47 percent with 52 percent of the vote in.

In western Wisconsin's 68th AD, GOP Rep. Kathy Bernier was leading Dem Jeff Peck 52-48 with 42 percent of the vote in.

Those were considered the seats most likely to flip party control, and insiders were watching two other seats they thought would be an indicator of whether there was a GOP wave in Wisconsin.

In the Wausau-area 85th AD, Republican Dave Heaton was leading Dem Rep. Mandy Wright 53-47 with 60 percent of the vote in.

And in Oshkosh's 54th AD, Dem Rep. Gordon Hintz looked like he was on the verge of holding on. It's a strongly Dem seat, but Hintz was hit by outside groups for his arrest at a massage parlor and a threat he yelled at a GOP colleague on the Assembly floor. He was leading Republican Mark Elliott 52-48 with 89 percent of the vote in.

-- By JR Ross


 10:21 PM 

Walker crowd applauds Clarke's sheriff win

The Walker crowd just cheered wildly for David A. Clarke's win for re-election for Milwaukee County sheriff. Clarke registers as a Democrat but supports GOP causes and has spoken at GOP and Tea Party events.

-- By Kay Nolan


 10:14 PM 

Happ concedes

Democrat Susan Happ conceded to Republican Brad Schimel in the attorney general's race, thanking supporters in a speech and saying she didn't regret entering the race.

“I know you're disappointed tonight and I am too,” Happ said. “But I don't regret for a minute that we made the effort and we fought the good fight.”

She said she was proud of the campaign she ran, and "that we never sunk into negativity or divisiveness."

Happ said her campaign raised important issues.

"I would have liked to have spent more time talking about the issues, but my opponents and the media went in another direction," she said. "And I do regret that."

-- By David Wise


 10:14 PM 

Walker in election statement: 'not done yet'

Gov. Scott Walker issued a statement tonight on his re-election, declaring he is "not done yet" and "Wisconsin is back on!"

Here's the text of his statement:

Wisconsin is back on the right track, and we are better off than we were four years ago, but we are not done yet. In a second term, we will move forward with policies aimed at helping people keep more of their paychecks through continued property and income tax relief, helping people learn more to earn more through worker training, and helping move people from government dependence to true independence through work.

Our number one goal over this next term is to ensure that everyone who wants a job, can find a job. I thank you, the voters of Wisconsin, for the honor of allowing me to serve as your governor for another four years.

Wisconsin is back on!


Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch also issued a statement:

I am very grateful to Wisconsin voters for tonight's victory. I'm humbled that Governor Walker and I have the privilege of continuing to lead Wisconsin's comeback in a second term. With another four years of continued investment in our economy, reducing our tax burden and helping people learn more to earn more, every Wisconsinite's future looks brighter.

Wisconsin is moving in the right direction and in a Walker-Kleefisch administration our state will continue to see the benefit of smaller, less intrusive government. I am honored to have earned the trust of Wisconsin and the opportunity to serve our great state for another four years.

-- By JR Ross


 10:02 PM 

'Four more years' chants from Walker crowd

The crowd is chanting "Four more years" and cheering as more news outlets call the governor's race for Scott Walker.

People are laughing and booing at any mention of Democratic candidates, while cheering Republican ones. But the biggest cheers come whenever Walker's face appears on the screen.

Whenever TV news reporters offer a live update from the party, the crowd is turning toward them, cheering and waving as if hoping to be seen on camera.

Conspicuously absent from the crowd are other local GOP politicians. Brian Schimming told WisPolitics.com that some will be coming, but weren't expected until closer to 10 p.m.

So far, there is no sign of Walker or his family.

-- By Kay Nolan
For WisPolitics.com


 9:50 PM 

Republicans lead contested Senate races

With about a third of the vote in, GOP candidates each hold double-digit leads in the 17th and 19th Senate Districts.

In southwestern Wisconsin's 17th, GOP Rep. Howard Marklein has 55 percent of the vote to Dem Pat Bomhack's 45 percent, with 33 percent of precincts reporting.

In the Fox Valley 19th, meanwhile, former Rep. Roger Roth leads Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber 61-39. That race has 34 percent of precincts reporting.

-- By Andy Szal


 9:45 PM 

Pocan urges Burke supporters to 'hold strong'

Supporters of Dem candidate Mary Burke reacted with yells and groans as returns for the guv's race continued to roll in.

The crowd gathered in front of the main stage at Madison's Overture Center heard from newly re-elected U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, who thanked volunteers and said "I will advocate for you and you alone."

Pocan also reminded the crowd that he had waited for an official call from the AP before making his speech, urging Burke supporters to "hold strong."

"It could be a long night," Pocan said.

-- By Briana Reily
For WisPolitics.com


 9:43 PM 

AP calls 6th CD for Grothman

The Associated Press is projecting Republican Glenn Grothman will win the 6th CD over Dem Mark Harris.

With 45 percent of the vote in, Grothman was leading with 84,844 votes, or 59 percent, while Harris had 55,126 votes, or 39 percent.

-- By JR Ross


 9:43 PM 

GOP leading in down-ticket races

With ABC and Fox calling the race for Walker, early returns show down-ticket races tracking the top of the ticket.

When the race was called, Walker had 379,099 votes, or 61 percent, to 240,025 for Burke, or 38 percent with 23 percent reporting.

The margin in the AG's race is roughly the same, with Republican Brad Schimel with 352,691 votes, or 60 percent and Democrat Susan Happ with 218,621, or 37 percent.

Support for the GOP candidates for secretary of state and treasurer has so far been softer, with Republican Julian Bradley at 54 percent for secretary of state and Republican Matt Adamczyk at 57 percent.

-- By David Wise 


 9:13 PM 

Walker party attendees enthused by early returns


WEST ALLIS -- At State Fair Park, hundreds of fans of Gov. Scott Walker are packed into a chilly Exposition building, awaiting the results of the race and watching Fox News television updates projected on a large screen.

About 8:15 p.m., shortly after polls closed the crowd erupted in cheers and applause when the network announced that with just 1 percent of the vote in, Walker was winning 68 percent to 31 percent over Mary Burke.

At 8:56 p.m., when the screen switched to a local news station that announced Walker ahead 58 percent to 41 percent, the crowd cheered again but much more quietly. They booed loudly when shown a Fox6 overview of the race that included a shot of Mary Burke.

Members of the crowd seem to be solidly behind the governor.

"I love the guy," declared a buoyant Vincenzo Valenti, a barber from the Milwaukee suburb of Brown Deer. Valenti says he's a staunch conservative. "I'm a little tea partyish," he said. "I support what (Walker's) done. He's had the nerve to do the things that are right."

Valenti said Mary Burke seems like a nice person, however.

"Politics these days has become a blood sport. A lot of nice people don't want to enter politics," he added.

Paul Ludka, a Milwaukee warehouse worker, said he's voted for Walker in all three races – 2010, 2012 and today. Asked what he hopes Walker would accomplish in the next four years, Ludka was emphatic: "Jobs," he said. "Jobs, jobs, jobs. I was unemployed for nine months and I'm lucky I found another job."

Amanda Belsha of Waukesha said she hopes Walker will continue to lower property taxes, as she hopes to become a property owner soon. Belsha said she supports Walker "even though I'm a government employee." She said the guv has been in office since she started her career, so she hasn't experienced any difference in pension and benefits the way many of her older co-workers have.

Jonathan Poland drove all the way to West Allis from Appleton because he loves election nights and spends them glued to the results anyway. "I liked the way Walker tackled the unions," he said, but added that he would vote Democratic if a candidate agreed with his views on the issues.

-- By Kay Nolan
For WisPolitics.com


 9:10 PM 

Some early state Senate numbers

Insiders have been watching two state Senate races closely, and numbers are starting to roll in there.

With 10 percent in, Republican Howard Marklein was leading Dem Pat Bomhack 55 percent to 45 percent in the open 17th SD covering southwestern Wisconsin.

With 12 percent in, Republican Roger Roth was leading Dem Penny Bernard Schaber 65 percent to 35 percent in the open 19th SD covering the Appleton area.

-- By JR Ross


 8:56 PM 

Barca at Burke party hopes for a good Dem night

Talking with reporters at Mary Burke's election party, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca is hopeful it will be a great night for Democrats. 

Barca noted the "enormous turnout" of this year's election, saying it's "great for democracy," and potentially also a good sign for Democrats, who usually benefit from high voter turnout.

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, however, says that the gender gap will be the determinant in this election. He said if Gov. Scott Walker wins, it's an indicator that Walker was able to get more men to turn out to vote.

Additionally, Soglin commented on the city he oversees. 

"There's a great irony that exists," Soglin said, as he cited jobs, unemployment and overall gains in income for the Madison area. "Madison and Dane County outperformed the entire state in a wide margin in a way incomplete with Walkerism." 

After the polls closed at 8 p.m., Burke's supporters filled the Overture Center party. The first few supporters crowded around TVs in silence, watching MSNBC coverage of the election as results came in.

More people began trickling in around 8:20 p.m., with individuals sporting Burke buttons and "I Voted Today" stickers on their chests. The crowds were mostly calm and subdued, patiently awaiting the election results as optimistic pop music played in the background.

-- By Briana Reilly


 8:47 PM 

Schimel the main attraction at Election Night party -- and the entertainment

PEWAUKEE -- Brad Schimel isn’t just the main attraction at his campaign party at the Country Springs Hotel tonight. He’s also the entertainment.

The Republican AG candidate is playing bass guitar and singing in his classic rock band, 4 on the Floor, to entertain his supporters until the returns start rolling in. He said he’s been jamming with his bandmates for 25 years.

Speaking to reporters before the band took the stage, Schimel said he’s optimistic about the hard-fought campaign against Dem Susan Happ, but he’s not making any predictions about how close the results will be.

Throughout the campaign, the toughest challenge was attracting attention when so much of the electorate was focused on the gubernatorial campaign, Schimel said. Still, he said he thinks he was able to draw a distinction between his experience and as Waukesha County DA and Happ’s tenure as Jefferson County DA.

And the best part of the campaign for Schimel?

“The most fun was when my 13-year-old daughter would travel with me,” Schimel said. “We would just talk” and bond.

The crowd gave a standing ovation to the TV screen as one station reported the Republican had an early lead of 60 percent to 38 percent, with 16% of the vote counted.

-- By Larry Sandler
For WisPolitics.com


 8:45 PM 

Happ's party a low-key affair so far

JOHNSON CREEK -- Supporters of Susan Happ began filing into the Comfort Suites ballroom in Johnson Creek shortly after 8, but the candidate herself was absent as the polls closed.

The assembled crowd of friends, family and supporters appears subdued but optimistic, grouped near a television displaying early election results. Facing a close race, Happ is seeking to become the second female attorney general in Wisconsin’s history.

As of 8:30 p.m., there were almost as many reporters here as supporters.

With fewer than five percent of precincts reporting, Waukesha County DA Brad Schimel was leading the Jefferson County DA 58 percent to 39 percent.

-- By Samantha Nash
For WisPolitics.com


 8:36 PM 

Numbers trickling in, Walker up early with 3 percent in

Gov. Scott Walker is up early with 3 percent of the vote in, according to early returns.

Walker had 32,588 votes, or 65 percent, to 17,220 for Burke, or 34 percent.

In the AG's race, Republican Brad Schimel had 63 percent of the early returns, Republican Julian Bradley was at 58 percent for secretary of state and Republican Matt Adamczyk was at 60 percent.

Insiders have been debating whether the down ballot races would be a straight reflection of the top of the ticket or if there would be some ticket splitting. One race in particular to watch for that is the secretary of state's campaign, where Bradley faces longtime incumbent Doug LaFollete, who has one of the most famous last names in Wisconsin politics. LaFollette was the only Dem to win of the constitutional officer races in the 2010 GOP wave.

-- By JR Ross


 8:11 PM 

CNN exit polling has Walker edging Burke among independents

CNN has posted exit polling that has Gov. Scott Walker edging Dem rival Mary Burke 50-47 among independents.

Burke was backed by 93 percent of Dems, while Walker had the support of 96 percent of Republicans.

The vote by party ID was 38 percent Dem, 36 percent Republican and 27 percent independents.

See more.

-- By JR Ross


 5:46 PM 

GAB update: More than 294,000 absentee ballots returned so far

The GAB said more than 294,000 absentee ballots have been returned so far, almost 30,000 more than were cast in the 2012 guv recall election.

The GAB said 96 percent of the 306,609 absentee ballots issued by clerks in the state's largest municipalities had been returned by today. Voters must mail them by today, and they must be received at clerk's offices by 4 p.m. Friday to be counted.

The numbers come from the Statewide Voter Registration System. Though used by about 360 of the state's 1,852 municipal clerks, it covers about 69 percent of voters. That means final absentee ballot numbers will likely be higher.

The 294,113 returned already eclipses the 265,427 returned in the 2012 recall and 230,744 absentee ballots in the 2010 election.

The GAB's update on how the election is going noted 216,825 of the absentee ballots returned so far were cast in-person at clerk's offices. By comparison, 153,854 people took advantage of in-person, early voting in the 2012 recall. Since then, lawmakers have narrowed the window and hours that voters can cast ballots in person ahead of Election Day. 

Overall, the GAB said the state is seeing heavier than normal voter turnout, but no major problems.

See the update.

-- By JR Ross


 2:35 PM 

Roth, seeking open 19th SD, welcomes baby boy

GOP state Senate candidate Roger Roth had more than GOTV on his mind in the closing days of the campaign.

The Republican and his wife welcomed a baby boy yesterday morning.

Roth tweeted Oliver James Roth was born at 7:50 a.m. His son and wife Rebecca "are both healthy and happy. #blessed," according to a tweet that showed him holding the boy.

-- By JR Ross


 2:02 PM 

GAB director: State on track for turnout of 2.5 million, no major problems so far

GAB Director Kevin Kennedy said early turnout numbers suggest the state is on track to hit the 2.5 million voters his agency projected.

He also said there had been no major problems in the early going.

Kennedy said a couple of small issues have popped up. Some polling places have posted signs reading "voter ID optional" rather than instructing voters that no voter ID was required for this election. He said there have been some questions on what proof of residence is acceptable for those registering at the polls, and he received an email about someone heckling voters outside an polling place in Fond du Lac. But he didn't have details.

"With 1,800 municipal clerks and 2,800 polling places and 20,000-plus poll workers and 2.5 million-plus voters, you're going to have some of these issues," Kennedy said.

-- By JR Ross


 12:33 PM 

Cities report high turnout so far

Election officials in a handful of the state's largest cities say things are busy but running smoothly midway through Election Day.

Neil Albrecht, executive director of the city of Milwaukee's election commission, wrote in an email that this morning was "very busy" with a volume of voters "comparable to what we would expect for a 70% turnout."

Madison's city clerk's office said the city had 23.4 percent turnout as of 11 a.m. That percentage typically doubles by 4 p.m. and, if the city remains busy, could double again by the time the polls close. That would put the turnout total above 90 percent, although the clerk's office said voters could come in slower than expected between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.

The Eau Claire city clerk's office reported 17.7 percent turnout as of noon. That number typically doubles by 5 p.m. and then doubles again by the time the polls close, which would put turnout above 70 percent for the day.

La Crosse Deputy City Clerk Nikki Elsen said the city hasn't seen any big issues at the polls, but that "it's its pretty busy from some of the calls we're getting from election workers." And in Waukesha, the city clerk's office said things are running smoothly so far.

-- By Staff


Sunday, November 2, 2014

 3:17 PM 

Burke highlights minimum wage, improved political climate in Milwaukee stop

MILWAUKEE -- Mary Burke told supporters she's energized for a Tuesday win and mentioned minimum wage and ending divisiveness as key issues as the campaign heads into its final days.

Burke told reporters afterward she's not intimidated by recent negative ads or by Gov. Scott Walker's weekend campaign support from RNC chairman Reince Priebus and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan.

Asked if she had a message for the GOP trio, Burke shot back, "My message is for the people of Wisconsin."

"I am doing great. I am actually more excited than ever," Burke told supporters gathered at a Democratic field office on Milwaukee's north side. "I wake up at 4:30, before the alarm even goes off, because I am so energized about winning on Tuesday. I can tell you this: the tougher they get, the tougher I get. I'm not backing down, not even one inch."

Asked by reporters to comment on her repeated visits to poorer neighborhoods in Milwaukee, Burke said, "I'm ready to take on the tough issues that we have in Milwaukee, and we have to take them on because for Wisconsin to be thriving we need a thriving Milwaukee and we need to have a thriving central city."

"We have to take on the issues around education and high unemployment," Burke added. "Milwaukee County has not gotten back jobs at the same rate as the rest of the country or as the rest of the state, even."

Burke asked her supporters to "stand tough with me," and urged them to "have boots on the ground" over the next two days.

"We know they will stop at nothing to prevent people from getting out to vote. We've already seen that," said Burke. "We know the votes are there, we just have to make sure people get to the polls."

Burke supporter Milton Bond of Milwaukee said he's seen frustration among city residents regarding GOP efforts to require voter ID, adding that those efforts will trigger some people who might not otherwise vote to make the effort this year.

Bond said health care and minimum wage are top issues for Milwaukee residents.

"We have a lot of people below the poverty line in Milwaukee," said Bond. "We have a lot of single parent households, a lot of parents are working three or four jobs, trying to make ends meet. Governor Walker's policies have really hurt a lot of constituents here in the city, that's what I believe."

He said Republicans point to the state's BadgerCare health plan as a reason why Obamacare isn't needed, but said, "In contrast, a lot of people got kicked off (BadgerCare.)"

Manu Garay of Milwaukee said he's optimistic Burke will win.

"She has a very good chance," he said. "Particularly if Milwaukee turns out and supports her, she has a great, great chance."

Garay, who has been canvassing door-to-door for Burke, said he hears strong concerns about job opportunities.

"She represents job growth," he said.

"She cares about women's rights, she cares about pay equality," said Marsha Sehler of Milwaukee. "I think she's better for the entire state. For all the reasons she's good for Milwaukee, she's good for the state. She's for the common good."

-- By Kay Nolan
For WisPolitics.com


 1:47 PM 

Walker: Negative ads from Burke, allies turning off voters

JANESVILLE -- Two days ahead of the election, Gov. Scott Walker told supporters negative campaign ads from his opponent Mary Burke and her supporters illustrate the differences between their campaigns.

At a campaign stop in Janesville, Walker said Burke's backers are not laying out in their ads a reason to vote for the Madison school board member and former Trek Bicycle executive. He said a backlash against the negative ads contributed to his lead in the latest Marquette Law School Poll, which had him up 50 percent to 43 percent among likely voters.

“I think people are finally coming home to the fact that overwhelmingly polls all throughout this year have shown that people believe Wisconsin is better off,” said Walker, campaigning on his birthday. “A lot of those folks, up until now, were trying to balance that with attack ads that suggested we weren’t.”

He also pointed to improved job growth in September, which he described as the best in a decade, as a motivating factor of the renewed support. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, appearing alongside the governor, echoed Walker’s assertion.

“The question is: Is Wisconsin going to be controlled by the hardworking taxpayers … or by these outside interest groups that are pouring in tens of millions of dollars?” Ryan said.

Walker encouraged his supporters to reach out to friends and family in the hours before the polls open to make a case for his reelection. He said the schedule of the state’s most prominent sports team would give them extra time to campaign.

“We’re hoping that people use this day off from the Packers game to get out and share the message,” Walker said.

-- By Samantha Nash


Saturday, November 1, 2014

 11:46 PM 

Burke emphasizes turnout as tight race draws to a close

APPLETON -- Chants of "Mary! Mary!" from a crowd of supporters greeted gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke Saturday evening at a gathering for her at the Appleton headquarters of the Outagamie County Democratic Party.

"This is football and we're in the last two minutes of the game," she told supporters. "We have everything it takes; it's all about turnout."

Burke said recent attacks over her history with Trek Bicycle -- including allegations she was fired from the family business in the early '90s -- have only made her stronger.

"I'm not backing down one inch," she said. "The tougher they get, the tougher I get."

Burke mentioned more than once was that she'll be a collaborative leader. "This divisiveness we see now in our state – it's not who we are, and it's not how we do our best work," she said.

Burke said the outcome Tuesday evening is dependent on voter turnout.

"I'm sort of putting this on you," she said, urging supporters to join the phone banks or go door to door to speak to people about the issues affecting them. "Whether it's education and our kids, whether it's women and getting equal pay for equal work, or the environment, (or) safety in our communities, these are the issues affecting our communities that are on the line here in Wisconsin," she said.

Burke mentioned that raising the minimum wage could be a positive for the state's business climate. "This is all money that gets spent right back in our communities and our businesses, which helps create more jobs," she said. "We know people can't live on $7.25 an hour."

Rep. Penny Bernard Schaber joined Burke at the Appleton gathering after having spent much of the day going door to door talking with people in the 19th Senate District, which includes the Fox Valley. Bernard Schaber is running against Republican Roger Roth for the Senate seat.

Bernard Schaber said three issues continue to pop up more often than others in her talks with citizens: BadgerCare, school vouchers and raising the minimum wage.

She said she runs into many people with family members who no longer qualify for Badger Care after the governor turned away $4 billion in federal funding for medical coverage.

"People want us to accept the federal funds," Bernard Schaber said. "People want us to support their public schools; they feel like our true investment should be in them, and that we should not be sending vouchers to private schools," or providing tuition tax breaks, she said.

Retired teacher and corrections worker Ronna Swift is one of those with family members who fell between the qualification cracks of Badger Care and the Affordable Care Act's health insurance exchanges. A member of the Sierra Club, she also disagrees with the governor's environmental track record (especially concerning mining), his turning down of federal funds to build a high-speed rail system across the state, and his support of voucher schools, which, she says, mainly benefit upper-class families sending their kids to private schools.

High school senior Clara Carpenter of Appleton said she hopes to go to college next year if she can afford it. She was an eighth-grader four years ago when students in her class staged days of school walk-outs to protest the Governor's cuts in education spending. "Kids were walking downtown and yelling," she said.

But the governor's policies on issues affecting women are what really motivated her to step up as a volunteer on Saturday, she said. "I feel like he's trying to take away reproductive rights, and that's what is motivating me," she said.

-- By Lee Marie Reinsch
For WisPolitics.com


 4:12 PM 

Walker: My positive message will overcome attack ads

EAU CLAIRE -- Negative campaign ads by Dem Mary Burke and her allies in the final days of the campaign won’t work, Gov. Scott Walker told a crowd of GOP loyalists during a Saturday afternoon rally in Eau Claire.

“They don’t want to vote against something, they want to vote for something,” Walker said of Wisconsin voters.

“The other side is counting on complacency,” Walker told a crowd of roughly 150 supporters gathered outside the Eau Claire GOP campaign office despite the November chill. “The other side is counting on their attack ads working.”

Walker took a populist tone in his remarks, saying Washington insiders want to unseat him because of Act 10 and other budget-cutting policies he’s enacted since taking office in 2011.

“You know why I’m the No. 1 target? Because I took the power away from the big government special interests,” he said. “They’re afraid more leaders might stand up and think more about the next generation than about the next election.”

Walker’s stump speech was part of a pre-election bus tour of northern and western Wisconsin Saturday, including stops in Hayward, Minocqua, Eau Claire and La Crosse. He noted that he had campaigned in Eau Claire just three days earlier as well, and chided Democrats for sending party leaders -- including, in recent days, President Obama and former President Clinton -- to Milwaukee to campaign on Burke’s behalf. 

“You think they know where the Chippewa Valley is?” he said.

Walker encouraged the faithful to make a last-ditch push to convince undecided friends and neighbors to vote for him. He acknowledged that not everyone in the state -- and possibly some in the audience -- had agreed with all of the steps he’d taken to fix a $3.6 billion state budget deficit when he took office, polices that inspired the recall effort against him in 2012. However, Walker said, those policies helped balance the budget and improve the state’s job picture. 

“I hope today you can see our motives were pure,” he added.

While Walker struck a more conciliatory tone, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus attacked Burke in his introductory remarks, saying she “lied on her resume” in the campaign. 

“She can’t keep a job with her own family. Why should we give her the biggest job in Wisconsin?” Priebus said, alluding to reports from former executives of Trek Bicycles that Burke was fired from the family business in 1993 -- claims that Burke and her brother, John, the current CEO of Trek, deny.

Priebus said Walker, who’s been talked about as a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate, has the stature to become a national leader in the GOP -- as long as Wisconsin voters send a message by re-electing him.

“It’s a message to the entire country that when you have a candidate who makes a promise, and keeps the promise, you reward them,” he said.

-- By Tom Giffey
For WisPolitics.com


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