• WisPolitics

Thursday, April 3, 2008

 10:28 AM 

Abrahamson to run for re-election

Shirley Abrahamson, chief justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, said this morning she plans to run for reelection next year.

"I will run and will work hard," Abrahamson said emphatically in a meeting with the Channel 3 editorial board and WisPoltics.com.

"And I will mobilize the forces of good," she added with a wry smile.

Abrahamson, 74, was first appointed to the court in 1976. She was elected in 1979, 1989 and 1999. Her last campaign was the most expensive judicial race in Wisconsin history until the 2007 campaign.

Abrahamson said she was not put off by the negative overtones of the just concluded high court race between Justice Louis Butler Burnett County Circuit Judge Michael Gableman. Gableman, who was backed by business interests, won the election and is the first candidate to defeat a sitting justice in 41 years.

Abrahamson also said she is not concerned that the court will now tilt to the right.

"I expect every judge to call every case on the basis of the law, the facts as each sees it, free of any ideology or agenda," Abrahamson said.

Listen to the interview: http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/080403_Abrahamson_interview.mp3

-- By Brian Clark, WisBusiness.com Editor

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

 4:55 PM 

Post-spring election WisPolitics Stock Report

--A collection of insider opinion--
(April 2, 2008)


Conservatives: Business groups like Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, issue groups like the Coalition for America's Families, the NRA, and other conservative forces spend millions of dollars to beat union-backed Justice Louis Butler. Their mostly negative ads on the crime issue echoed by conservative talk radio (Can you say "Loophole Louie"?) vault Burnett County Judge Michael Gableman from obscurity to the state Supreme Court and ensure a right-leaning tilt to the high court. It's the first upset of a sitting justice in Wisconsin since 1967. Will the coalition next set its sights on liberal Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, who's up in 2009? Conservatives also can cheer the re-election of Milwaukee Co. Exec Scott Walker in Dem-leaning Milwaukee County. Could it be the beginnings of a coalition that could help John McCain and Republican legislative candidates in November? Republicans are buoyant, saying conservatives have been energized. Dems, while admitting it wasn't a good day, mostly shrug it off saying the November elections with their expected high turnout and prez year politics will be nothing but bad news for the GOP.

Michael Gableman: The Burnett County judge rides his pro-law enforcement message to a 10-year term on the Supreme Court, becoming the first person in more than four decades to knock off a sitting justice. Though he edged Butler by about 20,000 votes, he won all but 15 counties statewide. Outside groups played a huge role in pushing Gableman over the finish line, insiders say, as he struggled to raise money and ran a TV ad that even some supporters saw as a poor choice that stalled momentum and brought bad PR amid charges of racism. But he stayed on message throughout the race, successfully contrasted his record as a prosecutor with Butler's past as a public defender and took advantage of the voters' preference for a law-and-order judge, insiders say.

Scott Walker: While ripped as a one-trick anti-tax pony by some, Walker cruises to re-election in the Milwaukee County exec's race over state Sen. Lena Taylor without getting nicked, let alone bloodied, as Dems had hoped at the beginning of the campaign. There's wide expectation among insiders that Walker will run for guv in 2010, perhaps against Dem Gov. Jim Doyle, if he seeks a third term. They say this race sets Walker up nicely as the GOP front-runner. Walker ran for guv in 2006, but pulled out of the Republican primary, allowing then-Congressman Mark Green to challenge Doyle. Insiders note Walker refused during this campaign to commit to serving a full four-year term.

Veto reformers: Voters by a wide margin OK a change to the state constitution that supporters say will limit the guv's extensive veto power. While there's some dispute about how well it will do the job, the amendment seeks to rein in the so-called "Frankenstein veto," which Doyle and other guvs have used to unilaterally write new law by stitching together words, phrases and numbers in budget bills. Lawmakers, despite Doyle's opposition, had approved the amendment first on big bipartisan votes. Still, amendment critics note a guv can still cross out words within a sentence, strike out individual digits to create new numbers and wipe out entire sentences. The guv still has the strongest veto pen in the country, and a spokeswoman reiterates that he's willing to use it.

Anti-smoking advocates: Their effort for a statewide smoking ban snuffed out for now in the Legislature, anti-smoking forces score a victory with another local ban -- this time in central Wisconsin's Marshfield. Voters in Marshfield passed a public smoking ban by a 64 percent to 36 percent margin.


School spending issues: The three state school districts seeking the most money from local taxpayers -- more than $40 million each -- see mixed results Tuesday. The state's largest referendum -- $62.2 million to renovate and expand Brookfield Central and East high schools in Waukesha County's Elmbrook school district -- passed by a 52 percent to 48 percent margin. But the next largest referendum, $45.6 million to renovate and expand the Jefferson high school, failed by a 54 percent to 45 percent margin. And in La Crosse, voters passed a $20.9 million referendum on operating expenses but turned down a $35 million building referendum that would have involved closing two elementary schools and building one new one.

Judicial election reform: The nasty, partisan Supreme Court race already has spurred calls for reform. The Wisconsin State Journal editorial board campaigns for appointing justices to the high court through merit selection. And campaign finance reform activists again call for full public financing of high court campaigns to give candidates more than a bit role in a system that currently allows millions of dollars in secret fundraising by issue groups. The big money this time fueled a race that observers expect will easily surpass $5 million in spending by all sources. Reformers say that kind of special interest-dominated campaign is hurting democracy and the public's confidence in the judiciary. Opponents say the First Amendment won out and dismiss the complaints as sour grapes. And others say the current system, while flawed, leaves the final call up to voters. Many doubt claims that putting taxpayer money into court races would deter outside groups from ponying up millions of their own. With big special interests -- liberal and conservative -- generally opposed to campaign finance reform, and with Gov. Jim Doyle unlikely to spend a lot of political capital, insiders aren't betting on change before the next big court race in 2009.


Jim Doyle: The Dem guv wasn't on the ballot, but he was closely linked to three races that went against his interests. His 2004 appointment of Butler to the state Supreme Court was erased, his financial and personnel help to Taylor went for naught, and his veto power was curtailed in a statewide vote. Doyle's one win was the election of Lisa Neubauer to a full term on the 2nd District Court of Appeals after he put her on the bench just a few months ago. The guv is still the biggest, most powerful player at the statehouse, but Tuesday night won't be remembered fondly by guv supporters.

African-American pols: There's only been one African-American elected statewide in Wisconsin, former Secretary of State Vel Phillips. There's still only one, as Louis Butler of Milwaukee loses his second bid for a 10-year term on the state Supreme Court in a racially-tinged election. This time, he lost as the incumbent justice and first African American on the court following his appointment by Doyle in 2004; he lost his first bid in 2000 to then-Justice Diane Sykes. While some grumble about what they say were racial overtones in the race, others shoot that down as an excuse that fails to recognize Wisconsin voters prefer a conservative candidate for the bench when given an option. State Sen. Lena Taylor also loses to Walker in the Milwaukee Co. exec's race, disappointing many Dems. African-American pols also got splattered by some of the bad publicity over Michael McGee running for re-election to the Milwaukee City Council from jail, but insiders say Milele Cogg's big victory over McGee helps.

Lena Taylor: The Milwaukee state senator muffed a potential upset of Walker by micromanaging her campaign and hurting the efforts of Dems and Doyle, say critical insiders. Taylor claimed Election Night that, "We didn't lose, we made a statement." But critics say her campaign never got the money or found the issue that would topple, let alone bloody, Walker. Taylor still is a player in Madison, however, as a member of the Joint Finance Committee. But Dem insiders have doubts about her future at the ballot box beyond the state Senate.

Liberals: Unions and left-leaning issue groups try to go toe-to-toe with a big money conservative effort and come up short in a court fight for the second time in two years. Annette Ziegler, while wounded by conflict-of-interest concerns, beat Linda Clifford after liberal groups largely held their fire, and now Michael Gableman has beaten Louis Butler despite millions spent by the Greater Wisconsin Committee, WEAC and other unions. Some Dems say they have to come up with a winning message and strategy if they hope to hold onto to the liberal court members still on the bench.

Pedro Colon: The state rep loses badly in his challenge of the incumbent Milwaukee city attorney. Backed by a series of state lawmakers and even the Milwaukee DA, Colon tried to make the case that longtime City Attorney Grant Langley hadn't done enough with the office to fight crime and take on other pressing city issues. Langley countered that Colon didn't understand the office. Many had viewed Colon's run as a stepping stone to something bigger and better, but Tuesday’s loss likely hurts those ambitions, say insiders who thought it would be a closer contest. Some say he struggled to gain traction in a race that got little attention in a low-turnout election.

Louis Butler: Butler now is 0-for-2 in his bid for a 10-year term on the high court. This time, the appointed justice gets close, but is still defeated by a well-funded conservative effort that boosted Burnett Co. Judge Michael Gableman. Butler does well in the big Dem counties of Milwaukee and Dane, but wins only 15 of Wisconsin's 72 counties. One Dem strategist says the Butler campaign did all that it could do on the fundraising and paid advertising fronts, given a compact six-week campaign necessitated by a prez primary that dominated the political landscape until Feb. 19. But others say Butler's campaign missed a series of opportunities, adding it didn't help that the justice was hesitant to fully engage in the fundraising and campaigning required, preferring to be above the fray. Butler's positive story never got out, leaving him vulnerable to the expected attacks on his record as a former public defender.

See more in this Friday's WisPolitics.com REPORT.


 4:05 PM 

Elmbrook passes state's largest school referendum

The largest school district referendum on the ballot was approved but most other large school spending measures failed when submitted to voters in the spring election.

A total of 30 referendums totaling more than $165 million were approved Tuesday. Thirty-one failed, representing nearly $285 million.

The Elmbrook school district gained $62.2 million to renovate and expand Brookfield Central and East high schools. A referendum last year for $108.8 million failed in the suburban Milwaukee district.

Of the 12 districts with referendums exceeding $10 million, only measures in Racine and La Crosse passed. Racine passed a $16.5 million referendum, while La Crosse passed a $20.9 million referendum. Voters in La Crosse also rejected a second referendum for $35 million to construct a new elementary school.

The remaining districts asking for more than $10 million were shot down by voters, including ballot measures in Germantown, Hartford (two referendums), Jefferson, Luxemburg-Casco, Poynette, Rhinelander (four referendums), Rice Lake Area, Somerset and Waupun.

Search for April 1 referenda at the Dept. of Public Instruction Web site:

-- By Andy Szal


 12:12 PM 

Butler says third-party groups trumped positive message

MILWAUKEE -- Justice Louis Butler said today he was proud of the campaign he ran against Michael Gableman and railed against third-party interest groups that he said trumped the voices of the candidates and suppressed turnout.

Butler did not publicly concede to Gableman last night after returns came in showing the Burnett County judge had edged the incumbent for a 10-year term on the bench. Butler called a news conference this morning to make a public statement and was flanked by supporters in the rotunda of the Milwaukee County Courthouse.

Butler said he was proud that he ran a positive campaign that "befits the dignity of the Wisconsin Supreme Court."

"As you know, I did not run one negative ad in this campaign," Butler said. "Unfortunately, too many others did, especially the deep-pocketed third-party groups."

Butler said third-party groups who neither have to disclose their donors nor agendas "siphoned huge amounts" of money into the race and called for campaign finance reform to address what he called a broken system that robs people of their faith in the court.

"When we rob people of their faith in this system, we rob them of justice," Butler said.

Butler said he attempted to contact Gableman this morning, but had not yet spoken with him to "acknowledge the will of the voters."

See Butler's prepared statement: http://www.wispolitics.com/index.iml?Article=122604

-- By David Wise


 11:06 AM 

Doyle calls treatment of Butler a 'tragedy'

Gov. Jim Doyle said in a statement this morning that it was a "tragedy" that Justice Louis Butler, who he appointed to the Supreme Court in 2004, was "trashed during the campaign."

Doyle, who is scheduled to be in North Carolina today and tomorrow campaigning for Barack Obama, also called Butler a "fine judge and good human being" in the statement.

"Justice Butler has served with distinction and honor on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and I thank him for his fairness, his sense of justice and his lifelong commitment to public service," Doyle said.

Read the statement.

Butler was scheduled to make a statement at the Milwaukee County Courthouse this morning. Check back later for more.

-- By JR Ross


 12:44 AM 

Gableman calls win a victory for law enforcement

Burnett County Judge Michael Gableman said tonight's win is a victory for "all people who envision a more traditional role for their state Supreme Court."

Flanked by supporters who cheered as he made his announcement, Gableman said that role is a conservative one in which judges apply the law, not make it.

To applause, Gableman said his win was also a victory for law enforcement officers who he said know that they will "receive a fair shake, a fair hearing and fair consideration" from him.

"Finally, I do believe it is a victory for all good people in this state who expect from their judges and their justices that not only in addition to upholding the rights of criminals and criminal defendants, their judges and justices will keep in mind, and uphold and honor, the rights of victims as well," he said.

Gableman thanked God, his supporters and his campaign staff for helping him win.

Gableman said he had not heard from Justice Louis Butler yet, but said he would like to congratulate him on his campaign.

"I believe he is a good man," Gableman said, "but I believe we have very different judicial philosophies" and that his own was more in line with what voters expected from their justices.

Gableman said he is "proud and humbled and pleased" that voters supported him.

Listen to the audio here.

-- By David Wise


 12:33 AM 

Gableman takes more than three-fourths of Wisconsin counties

Justice Louis Butler won the state's two most populous counties big with 72 percent of the vote in Dane County and 59 percent in Milwaukee County.

But he only won another 13 counties, according to unofficial returns just after midnight with another couple of counties still out.

Butler won Eau Claire, Kenosha, La Crosse and Portage counties, all of which were key if he wanted to beat back the challenge of Burnett County Judge Michael Gableman.

But Gableman won just about everywhere else that mattered, including big margins in places like Waukesha County (67 percent), Ozaukee County (68 percent) and Washington County (70 percent).

It was also a good sign for Gableman when Racine County numbers came in. The county often comes down 50-50 in state races, but Gableman won 54 percent of the vote there.

See county-by-county results here.

-- By JR Ross


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

 11:56 PM 

Gableman declares victory, Butler concedes 'privately'

Burnett County Judge Michael Gableman became the first person to knock off a sitting Wisconsin Supreme Court justice in more than 40 years Tuesday, edging incumbent Louis Butler.

With 93 percent of the vote in, Gableman had 400,310 votes, or 51 percent, compared to 379,556 votes for Butler, or 49 percent, according to unofficial returns.

Gableman declared victory tonight, calling it a win for law enforcement and those "who envision a more traditional role" for judges.

Then-Chief Justice George Currie lost his re-election bid in 1967. He was two years away from a mandatory retirement age in place at the time and joined the majority in an opinion that allowed baseball's Braves to vacate Milwaukee for Atlanta.

Read a biography of Currie from the state Supreme Court Web site

Butler campaign released the following statement around midnight: "The campaign is privately conceding. The margin is too great to make up, and the candidate will have a statement in the morning."

-- By JR Ross


 11:39 PM 

Butler waiting for final votes to come in

Louis Butler told supporters a short time ago his campaign was still crunching numbers.

Butler told supporters he wanted to take some time to thank them as his campaign staff continued to watch numbers roll in.

With 88 percent of the vote in, Michael Gableman had 374,291 votes to 363,790 for Butler.

Butler campaign consultant Sachin Chheda said, "We're going to wait for all the votes to be counted."

He said the campaign had not discussed whether to pursue a recount.

UPDATE: Butler has left the party and returned home with his family. Chheda said he may return later.

"We're playing it by ear," he said.

-- By Greg Bump


 11:30 PM 

Taylor: 'We didn't lose, we made a statement'

Lena Taylor told supporters the thousands of votes she received Tuesday showed her campaign was on the right issues.

She said she called Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker to congratulate him and delivered a similar message, saying voters are concerned about the issues she raised in the campaign. She also said she pledged to work with Walker and be an advocate for Milwaukee.

"We just simply ran out of time," she said, quoting Vince Lombardi.

She said things would have been different if she had more money and more time.

"I will continue the fights that I have been fighting for Milwaukee County," Taylor said. She referenced health care and making sure that Milwaukee gets its fair share.

She became emotional and started crying when talking about her adviser Les Johns and all the hard work that he put into driving and counseling Taylor during the election.

"We didn't lose, we made a statement," Taylor said.

Listen to Taylor's speech: http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/080401_Taylor_concession.mp3

-- By Samantha Hernandez


 11:13 PM 

Barrett expects similar path in second term

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said his re-election Tuesday provides some stability for the city, and he promised to continue working to create more jobs, improve public safety, improve the educational system and support transit improvements.

Barrett faced token opposition from Andrew Shaw. With 98 percent of the vote in, Barrett had 79 percent of the vote.

He credited his re-election to a long record of bringing people together during his terms as a state lawmaker and member of Congress representing Milwaukee, saying he continued that effort after a contentious mayoral election in 2004.

Barrett said he expected to continue on the same path he laid out for his first term. That could mean a continued battle with Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker over transit issues.

Walker won re-election Tuesday as well. Asked how he would work with Walker for another term, Barrett immediately focused on transit issues.

"We have to move forward on the transit system," Barrett said. "The transit system is imploding as we speak, and there has to be as solution to that. I cannot think of a city in the country that's growing that does not have a good, active transportation system that includes transit and includes rail."

-- By JR Ross


 11:06 PM 

Butler says race a 'nailbiter'

Justice Louis Butler was greeted enthusiastically by about 100 supporters as he arrived as his Election Night party. He gave hugs as he walked through the room as fans showered him with applause.

Butler told WisPolitics the race was "a nailbiter" and he was anxiously awaiting a final tally.

"We're hoping the result shows the voters of Wisconsin reject negative campaigning and the type of nasty campaigning that went on in this race," he said. "Like everyone here, we still have to wait for the results to come in."

-- By Greg Bump


 10:58 PM 

Butler chances starting to fade

Justice Louis Butler's hopes to retain his seat on the state Supreme Court are starting to dim.

With 79 percent of the vote in, Gableman has an edge of some 12,000 votes and 51 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns. Much of heavily Republican Waukesha County was still out for those numbers.

Michael Gableman's supporters are feeling more and more confident as the returns come in, while Butler's backers aren't seeing many positives in the latest numbers.

-- By JR Ross


 10:53 PM 

Coggs defeats McGee in 6th district

Milwaukee 6th District Ald. Michael McGee, in prison without bail as he awaits trial on state and federal charges, has lost to Milele Coggs in his re-election race, according to projections.

With 88 percent of the 6th District reporting, Coggs leads with 58 percent of the vote to McGee's 42 percent.


 10:48 PM 

Marshfield smoking ban passes

Voters in Marshfield have passed a public smoking ban by a 64 percent to 36 percent margin. With 100 percent of precincts reporting, 4,177 people voted for the ban and 2,357 voted against it.

In other spring election news from central Wisconsin, incumbent James Tipple defeated Debra Hadley with 58 percent of the vote to 42 percent to remain mayor of Wausau.


 10:27 PM 

Walker: 'I want to make us great again'

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, fresh off the news he'd been elected to another term, pledged to make the county a place where people want to live, work and retire.

He also said he wants to make it "a safer place to live and work and play in every part of our community because no one should have to live in fear."

Walker told the crowd he appreciated a congratulatory call from challenger state Sen. Lena Taylor and her pledge to work with him in the future.

Walker hit on many of the themes he stressed in his campaign, including changing the county workforce and making Milwaukee County a place that will grow and attract new businesses.

"I want to make us great again," Walker said.

Confetti went off after Walker finished his speech. Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke was in the bleachers behind Walker during his speech, and kids with Walker campaign T-shirts held signs on the stage.

-- By Rebecca Kontowicz


 10:18 PM 

Taylor concedes

Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, has conceded defeat to incumbent Milwaukee Co. Exec. Scott Walker at her campaign rally. Walker proclaimed victory at his party shortly thereafter.


 10:11 PM 

Milwaukee races wind down

Rep. Pedro Colón, D-Milwaukee, has fallen short in his bid to unseat incumbent Milwaukee city attorney Grant Langley, according to projections. With 84 percent of the vote reported, Langley has 60 percent of the vote to Colón's 40 percent.

In other Milwaukee races, Scott Walker holds a 57 percent to 43 percent lead over Lena Taylor in the county executive race, and Milele Coggs leads Michael McGee by 59 percent to 41 percent in the city's 6th aldermanic district. The 6th has 83 percent of the vote recorded.


 10:07 PM 

Gableman says he's 'very encouraged'

Gableman says he's "very encouraged" and "very optimistic" by early returns that show him with a slight lead.

Gableman did a series of interviews for 10 p.m. newscasts.

"We are very gratified that our message has resonated with what we believe will be the majority of voters," Gableman said.

Asked by a reporter what he thought about the negative turn the campaign had taken, Gableman said he was "proud" he had run a positive campaign focused on his qualifications and conservative judicial philosophy.

He is to address supporters shortly.

UPDATE: Following his interviews with the television stations, Gableman worked the room, chatting with supporters and thanking them for their support.

In a short interview with WisPolitics, Gableman reiterated his optimism.

As a justice, Gableman said he'd "uphold the rights of all the citizens under the constitution," including victims and criminal defendants.

"I'm very proud that our campaign has kept all of our advertisements positive, focused on why I believe that I am the best candidate to be the next elected Supreme Court justice," Gableman said.

Although his ad that focused on the case involving Butler and Reuben Lee Mitchell was widely panned as negative, Gableman insisted it only showed the contrasts between him and Butler.

"The fact is, my opponent, in our second most recent debate, told not only me, but told all the voters of the state that he was proud of every individual the he represented as a criminal defense lawyer," Gableman said.

"If he's proud of those clients, then I don't know what the source of the objection is to have photographs on an ad illustrating the stark contrasts in my professional background as a former prosecutor and his professional background as a criminal defense attorney."

-- By David Wise


 9:57 PM 

Bosman, Devine win in Kenosha, West Allis

The mayoral races in Kenosha and West Allis are reporting 100 percent of voting precincts, and Keith Bosman and Dan Devine have both prevailed by substantial margins.

Bosman defeated Patrick Moran 70 percent to 30 percent, and Devine defeated Linda Dobrowski by a 69 percent to 31 percent margin.


 9:31 PM 

Butler, Gableman tied

With more than a third of the vote counted in the state Supreme Court race, Justice Butler has moved into a virtual tie with Judge Gableman, though Gableman maintains a lead of a few thousand votes. The votes now total 50 percent for both candidates; 36 percent of the vote is in.


 9:24 PM 

Butler narrows gap

Louis Butler has climbed to within 4 percentage points of Judge Michael Gableman with 26 percent of the vote in. Gableman now has 52 percent of the vote to Butler's 48 percent.

In the other highly-contested court race, Lisa Neubauer has garnered 63 percent of the vote to William Gleisner's 37 percent with 18 percent of votes counted in the race for the 2nd District Court of Appeals.


 9:17 PM 

Barrett, Langley lead races in early Milwaukee returns

With 14 percent of the vote in, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett leads opponent Andrew Shaw with 78 percent of the vote to 22 percent.

Another incumbent, Grant Langley, holds a 60 percent to 40 percent lead over Rep. Pedro Colón in the race for Milwaukee city attorney. Fourteen percent of the vote has also been tallied in that race.

In other local races, Keith Bosman leads the race for Kenosha mayor, and Dan Devine leads the West Allis mayoral contest.


 8:54 PM 

Pro-amendment votes well ahead

With 10 percent of the vote in, the amendment to rein in the governor's veto pen has built an impressive lead, with 74 percent of votes in favor of the amendment and 26 percent against.

Gableman continues to hold a lead over Butler, with a 56 to 44 percent lead with 10 percent of precincts reporting.


 8:47 PM 

Taylor, Walker supporters gather

Supporters of Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker gathered at the Tommy G. Thompson Youth center on the State Fair Park grounds this evening.

Country music played in the background as supporters casually mingled in the darkened hall. State GOP Chair Reince Priebus was in attendance at the event, which featured red, white and blue balloons around the room. Attendees snacked on hot dogs and drinks.

Challenger state Sen. Lena Taylor was on her way to her election watch party not long after the polls closed at the Comfort Inn and Suites in Milwaukee.

Her supporters sipped wine and talked in groups as a mix of rock and pop music played over the speakers.

-- By Rebecca Kontowicz and Samantha Hernandez


 8:21 PM 

Gableman's party gets going

Supporters are beginning to arrive at Judge Michael Gableman's Election Night party in an American Legion meeting room connected to Ray and Dot's, a popular Greendale watering hole.

About 30 people are in attendance, grazing on cheese, crackers, veggies, fruit salad and cookies and sipping on tap beer and sodas in the brightly lit room. The crowd is mostly middle-aged and older, but several children are here helping to hang hand-made signs for Gableman.

There are no televisions in the room. Classic rock is playing on the radio.

Gableman is here as well, but just stepped out after fielding questions in short interviews with television reporters.

UPDATE: A campaign volunteer has revealed there is in fact a TV at the Gableman party. It was hidden in a cabinet above a cooler. Unfortunately, there is no picture yet, just static.

However, even if the television isn't working, supporters can still track returns; a projector connected to a computer is displaying them on a wall. With 1 percent in, it's 52 percent to 48 percent, Butler.

UPDATE #2: Gableman supporters at his party are encouraged by early returns showing him in the lead.

Gableman's cousin, Dave Gableman, announced to the crowd that "early returns are looking" good and relayed a message from Gableman thanking everyone for coming.

Gableman and his campaign manager, Darrin Schmitz, are watching returns at a relative's house nearby.

Few people in the room are tracking the returns as closely as Gableman's mom, Mary.

Nearly everyone who talks to her asks if she's proud of her son, to which she always answers "yes" with a smile.

Gableman's dad and other friends and family are also in the room.

Elected officials present so far include Ozaukee County Sheriff Maury Straub and Greendale Police Chief Robert Dams.

After a few failed attempts to get reception, the television cabinet has been shuttered.

-- By David Wise


 8:20 PM 

Butler supporters gathered

Justice Louis Butler' victory party is low-key as supporters wait for returns to roll in at the Riverfront Pizzeria in downtown Milwaukee.

A half dozen TV cameras are set up and aimed at a podium where Butler will speak when results are in. The justice is with his family and is expected to join the festivities at about 8:30 p.m. or 9 p.m.

About 50 supporters have gathered at the spot, sipping at beers or wine as they await the results.

A pizza buffet is being served.

UPDATE: Butler supporters are keeping one eye on TV sets as early numbers roll in showing Gableman stepping out to an early lead. More are filing in by the minute as wait staff continues to bring out pizza and other items for the buffet. Among those gathered is Rep. Tom Nelson, D-Kaukauna.

Butler campaign officials say the early numbers are coming from northeast Wisconsin and rural areas of Dane County. The mood is optimistic, as they hope they can keep the race tight until results from Milwaukee and Madison, where the campaign had a strong ground game, come in.

-- By Greg Bump


 8:10 PM 

Milwaukee Co. party leaders say things went smoothly

Party leaders in Milwaukee County said voting today went smoothly and turnout was been moderate

Milwaukee County Democratic Party Chairwoman Martha Love said "there's been an absolutely full-court press" to drive up turnout for several candidates in the Milwaukee area.

Love said Dem volunteers have been knocking on doors throughout the county, distributing literature, and making phone calls on behalf of Justice Louis Butler, County Executive candidate Sen. Lena Taylor, city attorney candidate Pedro Colon, and several Milwaukee Common Council and county board candidates.

Love said there was a "a major literature drop" right before the election throughout Milwaukee County. Love said volunteers were "all over" the county now encouraging people to go to the polls.

She said this afternoon turnout had been moderate so far, but she expected it to pick up before polls close.

"All of these efforts are paying off," she said.

Milwaukee County Republican Chairman Bob Spindell, who serves as a city of Milwaukee election commissioner, also said turnout has been moderate and the election had been going smoothly.

The only reoccurring problem he witnessed was stickers for incumbent Sup. James White getting stuck in the voting machines. White's name did not appear on the ballot due to a signature gaffe, and he and his opponent are both waging write-in campaigns.

Spindell noted turnout appeared higher in districts with contested aldermanic races, like in the 6th District in which jailed Ald. Michael McGee is defending his seat from a challenge by Milele Coggs.

Spindell has been visiting polling sites throughout the day. He said that Coggs and her volunteers have been out distributing literature, but have stayed the required 100 feet away from the polling places.

Spindell said he's seen no signs or anyone passing out fliers for McGee.

Spindell said he hasn't noticed "any massive push" to drive up turnout, especially compared to efforts for Sen. Barack Obama in February.

Much of the last-minute work has been done on black radio, Spindell and Love both said.

Butler made a last-minute pitch on 1290 WMCS radio today. Love said several people called in, saying they voted for Butler due to ads run against him they considered over the top.

Alex Runner, staff assistant to Common Council President Willie Hines Jr., said Butler's candidacy should drive up turnout in African-American districts.

"I think a lot of people underestimated the importance of this election for African Americans and the fact that this is the first opportunity people have to elect the first African-American Wisconsin Supreme Court justice," Runner said. "That's clearly significant to people in the central city."

Runner said that while he's seen fliers and other turnout efforts being conducted, excitement for the candidates is likely what is bringing people out rather than GOTV efforts.

"I don't think it's a major organizational push as much as people know who Louis Butler is and that he has strong connections to the community," Runner said. "People know him and they know what they're going to get with him."

-- By David Wise


 7:05 PM 

Follow top races

WisPolitics will be following races for the state Supreme Court, Milwaukee County executive and mayoral contests around the state, as well as the referendums on the "Frankenstein" veto and a Marshfield smoking ban.

Check here through the night for updates on the returns.


 5:54 PM 

New York Times highlights McGee race

Milwaukee Ald. Michael McGee's re-election campaign from behind bars has drawn national attention today as the focus of a New York Times feature.

McGee is being held without bail as he awaits trial on state and federal charges.

The article hones in on perceived racism and segregation in the city, the perception of the controversial and sometimes inflammatory alderman as a "political prisoner," and how his opponent, Milele Coggs, has attempted to keep the race about issues instead of a referendum on McGee.

See the article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/01/us/01alderman.html?_r=1&ref=us&oref=slogin

--David Wise


 3:50 PM 

State elections chief says things going smoothly

Government Accountability Board Legal Counsel Kevin Kennedy said this afternoon the election was going "remarkably smooth" so far with only a handful of isolated incidents reported to the state.

Kennedy said one voter in Marquette County was irate because he was told he couldn't have a paper ballot and instead had to use a voting machine, which he didn't trust. Kennedy said the GAB's general advice if people want to vote via paper ballot is to let them do it.

In another case, a Milwaukee woman received her son's absentee ballot in the mail and brought it to the city asking what to do with it. Kennedy said the woman witnessed her son's absentee ballot and her address was listed on the outside of the envelope. The Post Office mistakenly used that address instead of the one on the front of the envelope.

Kennedy said turnout was light today but in line with his early prediction of about 20 percent. He said Milwaukee has 5,200 absentee ballots, just short of the 5,900 the city reported for the February primary.

"At this point, it's hard to gauge the figures, but I'm not hearing anyone say we're getting overwhelmed," he said.

-- By JR Ross


 3:46 PM 

Poll: McCain holds slight edge in Wisconsin

Presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain topped a recent Rasmussen Reports poll in Wisconsin, holding a two point lead over Democrat Barack Obama and an 11 point edge over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Head to head, McCain bested Obama 48 percent to 46 percent. Respondents picked McCain over Clinton 50 to 39 percent.

The survey was conducted among 500 likely voters on March 26. The margin of error for the poll is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

McCain was viewed favorably by 61 percent and unfavorably by 37 percent. Obama's favorable/unfavorable numbers were 54 percent to 45 percent, and Clinton's 39 percent to 55 percent.

See a release on the poll here.


 3:35 PM 

More turnout updates

Two traditionally GOP-leaning cities are experiencing dramatically different turnout levels thus far on Election Day.

In the Republican stronghold of Waukesha, "the poll workers are waiting for people to show up," according to deputy clerk Marie Bieber.

The city has not recorded a percentage of voters yet, but Bieber said turnout was "certainly not more than I expected ... maybe a little low."

Meanwhile, Appleton reported turnout of 8.22 percent by this morning, with city Clerk Cindi Hesse said projects to about a 25 percent turnout. Hesse said the turnout is "right where I thought," which remains lower than usual for an election with a mayoral race on the ballot. Incumbent Mayor Tim Hanna is running unopposed this spring.

UPDATE: Officials in Wausau report that turnout is at 23 percent as of 4 p.m.

La Crosse officials are expecting turnout of 23 percent to 25 percent.

-- By Andy Szal


 2:55 PM 

Butler appeals to UW-Madison students

Louis Butler's campaign sent an e-mail to UW-Madison students urging them to vote today.

The e-mail reads, in part: "The Wisconsin Supreme Court is under attack from outside special interest groups and partisan politics. Special interest groups may have money, but they don't have you. You need to stand up and say enough is enough. Our highest court is not for sale, and we will not stand by and watch its honor and integrity be tainted by an under-qualified and biased candidate."

See the e-mail.

-- By JR Ross


 2:04 PM 

Madison, Milwaukee turning out as expected

Election officials in the state's two largest municipalities said mid-day turnout levels were normal for a spring election.

Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Susan Edman said polling locations had slowed down since the morning, but expected things to pick up later this afternoon and remain steady until polls close at 8 p.m.

"It was busy when the polls opened and it has kind of died down like it usually does," Edman said. Edman predicted that Milwaukee would have a slightly higher turnout than the statewide projected turnout of 20 percent.

Dane County Clerk Robert Ohlsen said that the city of Madison had reached 5 percent turnout as of 11 a.m., totals he characterized as "pretty much normal."

Elsewhere, Eau Claire City Clerk Donna Austad said turnout was at 4 percent at noon with a projected turnout of 12 percent to 16 percent. She said today's totals "might be a little low" compared to the initial city projections of 15 percent to 20 percent.

-- By Andy Szal


 12:06 PM 

Election Day: Officials predicting 20 percent turnout

It's Election Day across Wisconsin.

Voters statewide will chose between incumbent Justice Louis Butler and Burnett Co. Judge Michael Gableman for the Supreme Court and decide whether to OK a constitutional amendment to ban the so-called "Frankenstein veto."

In Milwaukee County, voters will pick between incumbent County Exec Scott Walker and Sen. Lena Taylor. There are also school referendums in 47 school districts and mayoral elections in Milwaukee, Kenosha and 13 other cities.

State officials are predicting a 20 percent voter turnout today.

Find your polling place


 11:56 AM 

RPW urges supporters to kill Frankenstein

The Republican Party of Wisconsin sent out 30,000 emails today to GOP-aligned voters urging them to vote yes on a constitutional amendment to ban the so-called Frankenstein veto.

The RPW email read:

Vote "YES" on the Partial Veto referendum TODAY and kill Frankenstein once and for all.

Take away Governor Doyle's veto power he has used so many times to raise our taxes. This year property taxes went up with one stroke of his Frankenstein pen - after he broke his promise not to raise taxes and to Republican legislators who kept their constituents' best interests at heart when they opposed tax increases during the budget process.

Vote "YES" today, April 1, 2008.

Read the referendum question and explanation


 11:05 AM 

Candidates plan election night parties

Here are details on the Election Night parties for some of the top candidates in the state:

*Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, 7:30 p.m., Derry Hegarty's Irish Pub, 5328 N. Bluemound Road, Milwaukee.

*Justice Louis Butler, 7:30 p.m., Riverfront Pizzeria, 509 E. Erie St., Milwaukee.

*Supreme Court candidate Michael Gableman, after results come in, Ray and Dot's Legion Post, 6351 W. Grange Ave, Greendale.

*2nd District Court of Appeals candidate Bill Gleisner, 8 p.m., The Delafield Hotel, 415 Genesee St., Delafield.

*2nd District Court of Appeals Judge Lisa Neubauer, 8 p.m., The Ivanhoe Pub & Eatery, 231 Main St., Racine.

*Lena Taylor, 7 p.m., Comfort Inn & Suites, 916 E. State St., Milwaukee.

*Milwaukee Co. Exec. Scott Walker, 8 p.m., Wisconsin State Fair Park, Tommy G. Thompson Youth Center, 640 S. 84th St., West Allis.


 8:44 AM 

Interest groups use mail to boost SC candidates

The national Rifle Association Political Victory Fund issued an "election alert" for Supreme Court candidate Michael Gableman via a blaze orange postcard.

The mailer tells hunters and anglers:

"In the years to come, the Wisconsin Supreme Court will hear cases that permanently define the scope of our Right to Keep and Bear Arms and the Right to Hunt and Fish. When those cases come before the Court, we must have a friend like Judge Michael Gableman who supports our rights. His opponent, Justice Louis Butler, has a track record of casting the Court's deciding vote in cases that arrogantly overturned voter-approved constitutional protections. In 2006, Butler was even part of the 4-to-3 majority that denied a citizen the right to carry a firearm for self defense."

Mailers from the AFL-CIO and AFT-Wisconsin have similar messages encouraging union members to vote for Butler. Both mailers say, "Any gains workers win at the bargaining table and in the Legislature can be stripped away in the courts. That's why it's important to support candidates for the state Supreme Court who understand the needs of working families."

The AFL-CIO mailer adds, in part: "Big corporate interests recognize the importance of the state Supreme Court and have worked hard to elect justices who will bend the law to serve the needs of corporations and the wealthy. These interests will spend millions to support Justice Louis Butler's opponent."

WEAC's PAC sent out a mailer last week urging a vote for Butler.

The mailer reads, in part: "Long before Louis Butler was a Supreme Court justice, he grew up in the projects of Chicago. His family was not wealthy, but they had hope that their son would have opportunities they did not. As Barack Obama would be our nation's first African-American president, Justice Butler was the first African-American person to serve on Wisconsin's Supreme Court. Conservative activists are seeking to win a majority on the court by waging a disgraceful campaign to defeat Louis Butler. It's up to you to make a difference!"

The mailer also includes a line that reads:
"We need someone who will be FAIR when issues come before the Court:
Equal Rights for All Individuals,
Corporate Scandal and Corruption
Environmental Protection."


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