• WisPolitics


Saturday, November 22, 2008

 2:04 PM 

O'Neil concedes

Dem Trish O'Neil has called Republican Keith Ripp to concede in their contest for the 47th Assembly District.

Ripp maintained his narrow lead over O'Neil after a recount this week for the open seat. His win means Dems will control the chamber 52-46 with one independent.

A spokesman for Assembly Dems tells WisPolitics in an e-mail that there was some confusion about whether O'Neil might go to court after the recount, but "that isn't going to happen."

The Republican Party of Wisconsin put out a statement yesterday congratulating Ripp on his win. See it here.

-- By JR Ross


Friday, November 21, 2008

 4:18 PM 

Ripp appears to survive recount in 47th AD

The Columbia County Board of Canvassers completed its recount of wards in the 47th Assembly District this afternoon, and Republican Keith Ripp of Lodi appears to have held onto his slim lead over Democrat Trish O'Neil of Columbus.

O'Neil picked up a total of five votes in the district's three counties this week, but could not offset Ripp's initial margin of 28 votes.

Columbia County Clerk Sue Moll said O'Neil lost four votes in that county's recount, compared to just two lost by Ripp. Earlier this week, O'Neil picked up a seven-vote edge on Ripp in Dane County, but lost a vote in Sauk County.

Dem attorneys expect the race to ultimately be resolved in court after contesting a number of absentee ballots that were not accompanied by the elector's official signature, which, they say, violates state statute.

-- By Andy Szal

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Friday, November 7, 2008

 11:19 AM 

Senate Dems will caucus Tuesday

The Senate Democrats have announced they will meet for an organizational caucus next Tuesday, Nov. 11 at 1:30 p.m.

The caucus had originally been scheduled for Thursday, but was delayed pending the outcome of a possible recount in the 18th Senate District.

Their Assembly counterparts will meet to select a new Assembly speaker Wednesday at 1 p.m., while Assembly Republicans will caucus to elect a minority leader Monday at 1 p.m.

Four Democrats are seeking the Assembly Speaker position, while Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, is considered the frontrunner to replace Mike Huebsch.

-- By Andy Szal

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

 11:15 AM 

Wasserman concedes

Rep. Sheldon Wasserman, D-Milwaukee, issued a statement this morning conceding the 8th Senate District to Sen. Alberta Darling, R-River Hills.

The AP called the race for Darling Wednesday after returns from the Milwaukee-area district showed the incumbent with 49,606 votes to Wasserman's 46,642, but the longtime Dem Rep. waited until this morning to concede.

Wasserman said he took particular pride in continuing to work as a physician while representing the 22nd AD.

"I take great pride in having lived up to the Jeffersonian ideal of a citizen legislator. I continued to practice medicine full time and never missed a single day of session in Madison," Wasserman said, noting it was time to "move up or out" of his position.

"I congratulate Senator Darling on her victory and wish her and the residents of the 8th Senate District all the best," Wasserman said.

See his statement: http://www.wispolitics.com/index.iml?Article=140957

-- By Andy Szal

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

 5:37 PM 

Turnout just less than 3 million

Turnout was high but not as high as predicted.

That's according to the GAB's Kevin Kennedy, who deemed yesterday's election a success.

"The main criteria for success is, 'What's the public confidence level afterwards?'" Kennedy said, noting that the wide margin of victory for Barack Obama contributed to that perception. "I looked at the national news reports, and Wisconsin didn't even make the news reports because a well-run election doesn't generate anything other than an interest in the results."

Kennedy said just under than 3 million Wisconsinites cast ballots out of 3.6 million eligible voters. That could be right around how many voted in the 2004 presidential race and well short of the record turnout forecast prior to the election. Kennedy said the disparity in the polls in favor of Obama may have contributed to the lower turnout, but that the economic turmoil and historic nature of the race kept turnout at a high level.

-- By Andy Szal

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 5:36 PM 

Three recounts possible

It appears there could be at least three recounts following close results Tuesday.

Dems indicated they plan to seek recounts in the 47th Assembly District north of Madison, where Republican Keith Ripp edged Dem Trish O'Neil by 48 votes. It's also expected that one will be requested in the 18th Senate District formerly held by Carol Roessler of Oshkosh; Republican Randy Hopper posted a win over Dem Jessica King by 180 votes.

Republicans are also eyeing northwestern Wisconsin's 67th Assembly District, where independent Rep. Jeff Wood held off Don Mogan by 175 votes.

Government Accountability Board officials say they expect to oversee three recounts in those very districts.

-- By JR Ross

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 5:32 PM 

Darling declares victory; Wasserman not ready to concede yet

Despite GOP Sen. Alberta Darling's claim of victory in the Milwaukee-area's 8th Senate District, Democratic opponent Rep. Sheldon Wasserman isn't ready to concede until all of the absentee ballots are counted.

The Associated Press has called the race for Darling, with 49,606 votes for her and 46,642 votes for Wasserman.

John Hogan, Darling's campaign manager, said absentee ballots broke her way, paving the way for a win.

Wasserman campaign manager Katie Prown said the Dem wasn't ready to concede yet and was waiting for absentee ballots from Shorewood to be counted.

-- By Samantha Hernandez

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 5:30 PM 

Doyle talks about working with Dem Legislature

Gov. Jim Doyle said today that with Dem legislative control he hopes to move forward with a number of initiatives that "for no good reason failed to get done" in a divided Legislature.

Doyle said the state "spoke very strongly" in yesterday's election, and that voters want an "end to some of the very extreme social agenda" that has been a priority for some legislative Republicans.

Foremost on Doyle's wish list is legislation requiring insurance companies to provide health insurance coverage for the treatment of autism. Doyle also said he'd like to see his rating system for child care providers passed, so the state gets "the best value for our dollars." Doyle added that another of his priorities is to fund training programs for workers seeking manufacturing jobs.

-- By Greg Bump

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 5:04 PM 

Post-election WisPolitics Stock Report

POLITICAL STOCK REPORT
--A collection of insider opinion--
(Nov. 5, 2008)

Rising

Wisconsin Democrats: Barack Obama posts a resounding double-digit victory over John McCain, the biggest for a presidential contended in the Badger State since 1964, and helps Dems control both houses of the Legislature for the first time since 1986. The win thrills Democrats and extends Republicans' losing streak here to six straight prez elections. Gov. Jim Doyle has good ties to the Obama administration, which could help the state in tough times if he doesn't leave for a top D.C. job (Dems increasingly claim a D.C. move now appears unlikelybut Doyle isn't ruling it out). Although a Dem Legislature could throw him items too liberal for his tastes, having his party in control is viewed as a net plus by insiders as he fills a multi-billion-dollar budget hole. But now, Dems have nobody to blame if things go wrong, Republicans point out. Some also wonder whether Dems should have picked up even more seats considering the favorable environment this fall, noting they couldn't knock off Sen. Dan Kapanke of La Crosse in the heavily Dem 32nd.

WEAC: As WMC's activism appears to cool under outside pressure, WEAC's aggressiveness appears to rise. The state's largest teachers' union poured more than $2 million into legislative races through mid-October and gets the Dem majority it wanted in the Legislature. Of the five seats WEAC targeted, Dems won three. WEAC is credited with saving Whitewater-area Dem Rep. Kim Hixson and other vulnerables. Insiders believe WEAC, which bankrolled many negative ads, outspent WMC, which went all positive this fall. Conservatives are glum, thinking that the QEO is gone, combined reporting is in and issue ads are on the bubble.

Dem groups: After years of complaining they'd been out-organized by Republicans, liberals seem to have their own three-headed monster these days to boost Dem candidates. One Wisconsin Now works the message angle, Advancing Wisconsin focuses on GOTV, and the Greater Wisconsin Committee does the ads. Their finger prints can be seen all over the Assembly seats that Dems picked up, insiders say. GWC ran TV ads going after GOP Rep. J.A. "Doc Hines, who ended up getting just 42 percent of the vote in the Dells area's 42nd District, while OWN was all over Republican Jo Egelhoff in Appleton's open 57th, which Dem Penny Bernard Schaber won. Advancing Wisconsin's independent expenditure reports show it was active in just about every legislative race that ended up being competitive. The group was out canvassing in just about all the races that ended up being in play, and some credit it for making South Milwaukee GOP Rep. Mark Honadel a near-casualty Tuesday after few put the Republican's re-election campaign on the watch list.

Mark Pocan: Pundits from both sides are giving kudos to the state rep from Madison who led the Democratic Assembly campaign efforts. Pocan is credited with coordinating the effort while staying out of the speakership battle. Now his likely reward? Being co-chair of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee as the state wrestles with a budget hole of more than $3 billion.

Jeff Wood: He's targeted by Republicans for being a turncoat, but the Bloomer leggie squeaks out a win and appears likely to come back to Madison as the only official independent in the Legislature. That's barring a change in the winner under an expected recount.

Mixed

Coalition for America's Families: The conservative issue group wins a key First Amendment ruling, but its efforts to stem the Dem tide fall short. CFAF even gets a boost from the ACLU for its efforts to overturn a Jackson Co. judge's surprise ban on an ad ripping a Dem candidate seeking to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Terry Musser; a state appeals court cleared the way for the spot to begin running again. But in the end, the Dem candidate wins the Black River Falls area seat. CFAF gets credit from insiders, however, for helping Republican Keith Ripp to a narrow victory in the old Eugene Hahn seat and GOP Rep. John Murtha to re-election over Chris Buckel in northwestern Wisconsin.

Scott Walker: The Milwaukee Co. exec and likely GOP guv candidate, despite starring in Club for Growth radio spots, sees county residents narrowly approve an advisory referendum on a county sales tax boost. Critics call it a defeat for Walker. Walker says no, contending voters were confused and that the language was misleading. But one Dem strategist says through the CFG ads "Walker was speaking alone in a vacuum and still could not carry the day. If voters were confused, doesn't that fall at Walker's feet?" Counters Walker, "The total number of votes against the sales tax referendum was 176,783 (49 percent). In 2006, Mark Green got 118,949 votes in Milwaukee County. If a Republican received 49 percent of the vote in Milwaukee County as part of an election for statewide office, that Republican would win the statewide race. Despite the slanted language of the question, 49 percent of the voters in Milwaukee County agreed with my position." To critics, it's pure spin, but it may also be too local of an issue to resonate statewide.

Health care reform: Most candidates targeted for their nice words about the universal health care plan Healthy Wisconsin survive attack ads that had them on the side of giveaways to illegal immigrants. And advisory ballot measures around the state advocating affordable health care appear to gain big majorities, according to a count by sponsoring Citizen Action. Could it mean a push for more state health care reform in a new session? Insiders generally expect Dems to feel pressured to produce some kind of health care plan in the next session. And some Republicans lament they might have had a better showing if they could have produced a coherent health care plan other than just tearing down Healthy Wisconsin. But Republicans also contend Dems have been running away from the plan as quickly as they can. Some observers now doubt the package will make its way to the guv's desk considering the beating some candidates took over it. One conservative strategist goes as far to call it dead.

Voter turnout: Election officials predicted the possibility that a record 3.2 million voters may go to the polls on Election Day this fall, spurred by the heated contested for president and the recession. But turnout may end up being just short of the almost 3 million voters who turned out four years ago. Some suggest a steady stream of polls in Wisconsin showing Barack Obama up by double digits depressed GOP turnout as some Republicans simply stayed home.

Voter-approved tax increases: Referenda to increase taxes had another mixed day at the polls. Voters in Milwaukee County narrowly approved a nonbinding referendum backing a boost in the sales tax to pay for parks and other government expenses. They also gave the OK to $119 million in new school spending. But they rejected $191 million requested by state schools for various costs, including most of the major requests. Voters in Watertown shot down one school referendum for $3.9 million but approved another for $22.4 million, the biggest request to win approval Tuesday.

Falling

Wisconsin Republicans: Wisconsin went from swing state to vivid blue Tuesday, leaving Republican AG J.B. Van Hollen as the lone statewide elected Republican. Not only will they be in the wilderness in the statehouse, but also in D.C. Insiders say a major rebuilding effort will have to be undertaken with landslide victor U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, a leading theoretician. Ryan tells Milwaukee talk radio it's time for new people to step in and the reform wing of the party to step up, "It's time for reformers to kick out the deadwood." Republicans also are now looking at their guv chances in 2010, hoping Gov. Jim Doyle will opt for the Obama administration instead of a re-election bid, leaving in charge Barb Lawton -- somebody they view as too liberal to get elected statewide. Some influential Republicans remain wary of granting Walker a quick nod, instead musing about Van Hollen, former GOP state chair and ambassador to the Czech Republic Rick Graber and even Tommy Thompson to lead back the party. That task will be a lot tougher if Doyle stays to run for re-election, insiders say. On the Assembly front, the circle firing squad has already begun with conservatives complaining the caucus lost its way and moderates complaining Republicans didn't try to make the tent big enough. Both factions seem headed for an uneasy two years in the next session. A battle also seems to be forming about whether the losses were the state party's fault or part of a trend in which state elections have become nationalized. The critics contend the party lacked a consistent message this fall, while others contend there wasn't anything they could really do with the national headwinds blowing hard across Wisconsin.

John Gard: The former GOP Assembly speaker loses his rematch with Appleton allergist Steve Kagen, and most insiders say it's likely to end his political career. Gard indicates in his concession speech that he's not sure if he'll ever taken on another political run, and many Republicans lament that Gard should have waited until 2010 to run, thinking that the pendulum will swing back toward Republicans in the non-presidential year. Others have been pessimistic about Gard's shot in the re-match all along, pointing out his negatives were just too high with a personality that grates some the wrong way and a bombastic campaign two years ago that turned off too many voters.

GOP legislative incumbents: Three of them -- Reps. Frank Lasee of Bellevue, Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls, and J.A. "Doc" Hines of Oxford -- go down to defeat Tuesday. Those that are left will be deep in the minority in both the Senate and the Assembly and observers to a lot of infighting. On the Assembly front, the circle firing squad has already begun with conservatives complaining the caucus lost its way and moderates complaining Republicans didn't try to make the tent big enough. Speaker Mike Huebsch confirms the obvious and says he won't be running for minority leader -- another sign caucus factions seem headed for an uneasy two years in the next session. Among the possible new leaders, insiders say, are Reps. Jeff Fitzgerald and Leah Vukmir. A battle also seems to be forming about whether the losses were the state party's fault or part of a trend in which state elections have become nationalized. The critics contend the party lacked a consistent message this fall, while others contend there wasn't anything they could really do with the national headwinds blowing hard across Wisconsin.

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 12:30 PM 

Huebsch will not seek minority leadership

Mike Huebsch has informed Assembly Republicans that he will not seek a leadership position in the next legislative session, when the caucus will return in the minority for the first time in 14 years.

Dems are looking at a 52-46 edge in the chamber next session, pending any recounts, with one independent.

Huebsch wrote in the note that he believed the GOP caucus would be "best served by a new leader," according to sources who have read the letter.

UPDATE: Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, will run for Assembly Minority Leader, according to his spokesman, Jim Bender. Fitzgerald has served as Majority Leader for the Republicans.

-- By JR Ross

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 11:31 AM 

Dems begin race for Speaker

With Democrats taking the majority in the Assembly, the contest for the job of Speaker, the top leadership job in the house, is on.

Rep. Fred Kessler, D-Milwaukee, has sent out a letter to caucus members this morning saying he is seeking the spot.

Rep. Mike Sheridan, D-Janesville, has also sent a personalized letter to each member expressing his desire for the job. Also in the mix are Rep. Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee, who has served as assistant minority leader, and Rep. Pedro Colon, D-Milwaukee, though other candidates could emerge, according to insiders.

When Rep. Jim Kreuser, D-Kenosha, stepped away from the Assembly to run for Kenosha County Executive, he said that his successor will be chosen from the caucus members who do the most to help Dems seize control of the house. They did that last night, grabbing a 52-46 majority, with one independent, Rep. Jeff Wood of Bloomer.

A recount is also expected in the 47th Assembly District, where Republican Keith Ripp beat Democrat Trish O'Neil by just 28 votes. The two were vying to replace Rep. Eugene Hahn, R-Cambria, who retired.

Kessler told WisPolitics his credentials include a "historical understanding" of the state, and his support among caucus progressives.

"I have been very involved in helping candidates in campaigns out in the rest of the state," Kessler said. "The people I basically supported were people who were progressives. I will have a lot of support by the virtue of I've been a leader to adopt a progressive agenda."

Update: Richards has also sent out a letter expressing his interest in filling the Speaker position.

-- By Greg Bump

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 3:02 AM 

Good night for Dems

Democrats pulled off an impressive sweep Tuesday in Wisconsin, propelling Barack Obama to the biggest win by a presidential contender here in more than four decades and retaking the state Assembly for the first time in 14 years.

"Thank you, thank you," Gov. Jim Doyle told an enthusiastic crowd at the Monona Terrace in downtown Madison. "What an incredible night for Wisconsin. What an incredible night for the Country. And what an incredible night for the world."

Tuesday's results also delivered back-to-back blows to Republicans, who got caught up in a Dem wave two years ago only to get whacked again. The party is now in its worst shape here since 1986, the last time Dems held both houses of the Legislature and the governor's office.

Tommy Thompson won the first of his four elections for governor that fall, and Republicans began to steadily build up their numbers in the Assembly, to peak at 60 seats after the 2004 elections.

Now, J.B. Van Hollen is the only Republican who holds a statewide office in Wisconsin, Dems hold five of the state's eight seats in Congress, and the GOP will be in the minority in both houses of the Legislature come January.

See more here.

-- By JR Ross

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 1:45 AM 

Dexter ousts Moulton

Kristen Dexter, D-Eau Claire, has defeated GOP Rep. Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls in a tight race for the 68th AD.

With all precincts reporting, Dexter held a slim 275 vote edge.

-- By Andy Szal

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 1:40 AM 

Hixson overtakes Towns late

Rep. Kim Hixson, D-Whitewater, has overtaken his opponent from two years ago, former Rep. Debbie Towns of Janesville, with time running out in the 43rd AD.

Towns had held a slight lead for most of the evening, but with 97 percent of precincts reporting, Hixson has a 51-49 edge.

Rep. Lee Nerison, R-Westby, also appears to be a good bet to hold onto his seat. He leads Dale Klemme in the 96th AD by 4 percent with 97 percent reporting.

-- By Andy Szal

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 1:36 AM 

Zigmunt upset is official

With 100 percent reporting, Democrat Ted Zigmunt has pulled off an upset of GOP Rep. Frank Lasee in the 2nd AD. Lasee conceded earlier in the evening.

Zigmunt got 52 percent of the vote to Lasee's 48 percent (16,007 votes to 14,680).

-- By Greg Bump

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 1:17 AM 

Kapanke wins

GOP Sen. Dan Kapanke has beaten Dem Tara Johnson in the 32nd SD.

With 85 percent reporting the race has been called. Kapanke has 54 percent to Johnson's 46 percent.

-- By Greg Bump

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 1:05 AM 

Garthwaite beats Tranel

Dem Rep. Phil Garthwaite has overcome the challenge of Republican Travis Tranel.

With 100 percent reporting, Garthwaite garnered 54 percent to Tranel's 46 percent.

-- By Greg Bump

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 12:57 AM 

Bies survives close 1st AD race

Rep. Garey Bies, R-Sister Bay, survived a scare in his re-election campaign.

With 100 percent of the Door County-area precincts reporting, Bies scored a win of just 850 over Democrat Dick Skare.

In another race Dems cautioned election-watchers against ignoring, GOP Rep. Jerry Petrowski leads Nate Myszka by 10 points in the 86th AD, but with only 54 percent of the vote recorded.

-- By Andy Szal

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 12:53 AM 

Late night ahead in 8th Senate District

With a mix of wards still out in key GOP and Dem areas, Rep. Sheldon Wasserman is telling his supporters to head home for the night, as it could be a while before the race is decided.

Wasserman led Sen. Alberta Darling 52 percent to 48 percent with 87 percent reporting.

Wasserman field organizer Ilsa Peterson said the wards not yet reporting indicate it will be a close race.

"Almost every way we calculate it, it seems like it will be a couple hundred votes," Patterson said.

Darling was down 60-40 at one point, and given many of the unreported wards are in GOP territory, Darling spokesman John Hogan is optimistic.

"There's a lot out there that's really good for us," Hogan said.

-- By David Wise

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 12:52 AM 

Holperin wins tight 12th SD race

Jim Holperin, D-Eagle River, has won the seat for the 12th SD which was vacated this summer by Sen. Roger Breske, D-Eland.

Holperin said that Tom Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, called to concede. Holperin said the race was "hard fought and it was close."

Holperin said, "I'm going to fight for the North woods." He is keeping in mind that this election was not a landslide victory.

"I'm going to be mindful of those voters (who voted for Tiffany) and their point of view to hold down the cost of government."

Tiffany said that he lost by about 2,000 votes.

"It was a very dynamic race," Tiffany said. His plans are to devote more time to his business, Wisconsin River Cruises, and spend time with his family.

-- By Samantha Hernandez

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 12:43 AM 

Obama's win could be biggest here in 44 years

Obama is well on his way to posting the biggest margin of victory in Wisconsin for a presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson's crushing win over Barry Goldwater 44 years ago.

With almost 90 percent of the vote in, Obama had 1,460,700 votes, or 56.2 percent, to 1,103,808 votes, or 42.5 percent for McCain.

Since Johnson pulled in 62 percent of the vote in that 1964 race, the best showing by any candidate was Ronald Regan's 54.2 percent of the vote in 1984. Regan was also the last Republican to win Wisconsin.

Regan's margin of victory in 1984 was 202,953 votes. Johnson's margin was 411,929.

-- By JR Ross

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 12:32 AM 

Dems reclaim Assembly

Assembly Dems have picked up at least five GOP seats, enough to give them back the majority in the chamber for the first time since 1994, according to returns and interviews with operatives from both sides.

Complete numbers have not been posted in several key races yet. But both sides say Dems have picked up the 2nd, 42nd, 57th, 68th and 92nd. There are also several pick up opportunities that remain for Dems, while only freshman Rep. Kim Hixson seems to be in any danger of losing. Both sides say they expect late returns to break his way.

Also, Jeff Wood has won re-election as an independent after leaving the GOP earlier this year, further cutting into the 52 seats Republican had held at the beginning of the legislative session.

-- By JR Ross

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 12:30 AM 

'Safe' senators win re-election

Four Senators considered "safe" heading into Tuesday have easily defeated their election day opponents.

Sens. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, Bob Wirch, D-Pleasant Prairie, Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, and Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, have all been projected to win.

The three Dems survived GOP challengers, while Grothman easily surpassed independent candidate Clyde Winter in his heavily GOP-leaning district.

-- By Andy Szal

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 12:25 AM 

Davis, Van Roy, Soletski survive targeted Assembly races

Three targeted Assembly incumbents have fended off challenges today.

GOP Reps. Brett Davis of Oregon and Karl Van Roy of Green Bay will head back to the Legislature next session following relatively decisive wins. Davis bested John Waelti of Monroe 56-44, while Van Roy defeated Lou Ann Weix 54-46.

Rep. Jim Soletski, D-Green Bay, also survived comfortably Tuesday, defeating Tony Theisen 56-44.

-- By Andy Szal

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 12:19 AM 

Lasee concedes

GOP Rep. Frank Lasee has conceded in the 2nd AD to Dem Ted Zigmunt, according to Dem Rep. Mark Pocan, who is leading the Democratic Assembly effort.

-- By Greg Bump

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 12:07 AM 

Honadel surges to lead

Incumbent GOP Rep. Mark Honadel has surged to a lead in the 21st AD after falling behind early to Dem Glen Brower.

With 92 percent reporting, Honadel has a 51 percent to 49 percent lead.

-- By Greg Bump

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 12:01 AM 

Wood wins re-election as independent

Rep. Jeff Wood of Chetek, formerly of the Republican Party, appears to have survived his first run as an independent.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting in the 67th Assembly District, Wood edged Don Moga, R-Jim Falls, by 175 votes. Wood made waves in the GOP caucus on the day of the candidate filing deadline by announcing his departure from the party. His win throws another kink in GOP plans to hold the Assembly.

In addition, two freshman Democrats will take over open seats in Western Wisconsin: Chris Danou in the 91st, who defeated Dave Hegenbarth and two other candidates, and Mark Radcliffe in the 92nd, who defeated Dan Hellman.

Radcliffe weathered a series of attacks in the open seat, including an ad by the Coalition for America's Families that sparked one of the state's largest electoral controversies over the campaign's final days.

The ad, which attacked the Black River Falls Democrat over the Senate Dems' Healthy Wisconsin Plan, was ordered pulled by a Jackson County judge over the weekend, but was allowed to resume running on appeal Monday. Neither the ad nor the case appeared to dent Radcliffe, who bested Hellman by 6 percent with all precincts reporting.

-- By Andy Szal

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008

 11:52 PM 

Milwaukee sick pay measure passes

Milwaukee voters have overwhelmingly approved a binding referendum requiring employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees.

With 87 percent of the vote in, it was backed by 68 percent of voters with 32 percent opposed.

Milwaukee 9to5 Director Amy Stear, whose group got the measure on the ballot, called it a "great win" that will help with people's health, economic well-being and ability to take care of loved ones who get sick.

"We're very happy for our community and city that families in Milwaukee are going to enjoy a healthier, more economically stable city in the future here," Stear said.

MMAC President Tim Sheehy wasn't surprised by the result, but said it will hurt Milwaukee's ability to attract and retain jobs.

"I don't view this as an advantage in selling Milwaukee as a place to attract and expand jobs," Sheehy said, noting that employers could choose to locate somewhere they would not have to pay the added expense.

Stear countered that San Francisco, which passed a similar ordinance 18 months ago, has seen an increase in jobs since it passed, while surrounding counties have seen decreases.

Under the ordinance, passed through direct legislation, companies in Milwaukee will have to provide one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours an employee works. Accrued sick leave would be capped at 72 hours for workers at large companies and at 40 hours for employees of small businesses.

Sheehy said it will be up to the board, but the MMAC is going to keep open the option of bringing a legal challenge to the ordinance.

Stear said she is confident it will stand up to any legal challenges, but that it would be surprising to see one given the margin of victory.

"We hope that all employers will respect the decision that the people of our city have made," Stear said.

But despite efforts by the MMAC to educate voters about the issue, Sheehy expressed concern they didn't have all the facts.

"I certainly respect the response from the voters of Milwaukee,"
Sheehy said. "My biggest concern is that they didn't have a full set of facts in front of them when they voted.

"The way this is written who wouldn't want paid sick days?"

The measure came about through a process called direct legislation. To make it on the ballot, the group had to collect a minimum of 25,600 signatures. The group handed in an estimated 42,000 valid signatures, Stear said.

Mayor Tom Barrett also opposed the measure.

-- By David Wise

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 11:51 PM 

Safe races become official

Nine Assembly incumbents are now projected to return to the Legislature next session after winning re-election Tuesday.

Assembly Majority Leader Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, will return as will fellow GOP caucus-members Steve Nass of Whitewater, Thomas Lothian of Williams Bay, Pat Strachota of West Bend, and Samantha Kerkman of Burlington.

Dem incumbents to win re-election include Peggy Krusick of Milwaukee, Tony Staskunas of West Allis, Terry Van Akkeren of Sheboygan and John Steinbrink of Pleasant Prairie.

In addition, Democrat Sandra Pasch of Whitefish Bay has defeated Yash Wadhwa of Glendale in the race to replace Rep. Sheldon Wasserman in the 22nd AD. Wasserman maintains a 6 point lead over Sen. Alberta Darling in the 8th SD.

-- By Andy Szal

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 11:45 PM 

Gard: "We will live to fight another day"

John Gard said in his concession speech that he doesn't know if he will run for Congress again, but he says there are other ways to "move Wisconsin forward" besides being in elected office.

"What we believe in is real. What we believe in needs to be fought for," said Gard, a Republican from Suamico. "I believe in what we fight for ... We will live to fight another day, in a variety of ways."

Gard thanked his family, friends, supporters and staff, and said that the future holds "great promise." He said the campaign gave him a "renewed sense of love, hope and faith."

"I'm not sure I could have worked any harder, but tomorrow I start training for the Boston Marathon again, so I have that to look forward to."

-- By Greg Bump

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 11:38 PM 

Pocan: Assembly looking good for Dem control

State Rep. Mark Pocan, who led the Assembly Dems' campaign effort, isn't proclaiming victory just yet.

But he says the numbers he's seen paint a pretty favorable picture about the likelihood that Dems will take back the Assembly.

Pocan said Fred Clark has knocked off GOP Rep. J.A. "Doc" Hines in the 42nd District, while Mark Radcliffe has won the 92nd District over Dan Hellman, picking up a seat that had been held by Republican Rep. Terry Musser.

Pocan also said Penny Jo Schaber was "looking solid" in the 57th Assembly District, now held by retiring GOP Rep. Steve Wieckert, and Mark Brower was in solid shape with a 10-point lead over GOP Rep. Mark Honadel in the 21st with 75 percent of the vote in.

Pocan also said Kristen Dexter had a 600-vote lead over GOP Rep. Terry Moulton in Eau Claire with two "very favorable" wards left to be counted.

Dem Rep. Kim Hixson has been slightly behind Republican Debi Towns in their re-match from 2006. But Pocan said most of the city of Whitewater and the campus of UW-Whitewater had not been counted yet.

Dems had 47 seats headed into today and would need to flip just three to take the majority, if they hold all of their current seats.

-- By JR Ross

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 11:33 PM 

Kagen wins 2nd term

U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, will return to Congress for a second term.

With 74 percent reporting, Kagen has a 53 percent to 47 percent lead over Republican challenger John Gard, the former speaker of the state Assemmbly.

-- By Greg Bump

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 11:14 PM 

Obama proclaims change has come

Barack Obama proclaimed "change has come to America" in his victory speech to the thousand gathered in Chicago's Grant Park.

He told the crowd that they had sent a message to those who wondered if "America's beacon still burns as bright."

"Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope," Obama said.

Obama told the crowd that he was not the likeliest candidate when the race began and his candidacy was not born in the halls of Washington, D.C., but in the back yards of Des Moines.

He said his win answered the question for those who have wondered if America is still the place where all things are possible and showed that the idea of a government by the people, of the people and for the people has not perished.

Obama also warned the crowd of the tough task ahead, pointing to the state of the economy and the two wars now being fought overseas. He said not everyone would support the decisions he will make or the policies he sets. But he promised the country would meet the challenges before it.

"We may not get there in one year or even in one term," he said. "But, America, I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you, we as a people will get there."

-- By JR Ross

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 11:05 PM 

Western Wisconsin Dems hold leads

Democrats in three toss-up Western Wisconsin Assembly Districts have staked out sizable leads as Election Night rolls along.

In the 91st AD, Chris Danou has a 10-point lead on Dave Hegenbarth with 83 percent reporting in the race to replace retiring Rep. Barb Gronemus. In the 92nd, Mark Radcliffe leads another open seat, taking 53 percent of the vote to Dan Hellman's 47 percent, with 88 percent reporting.

In the Eau Claire area, freshman Rep. Jeff Smith leads Darcy Fields 59-41 in the 93rd AD, with 83 percent reporting.

And in the latest race to be called, Rep. Rich Zipperer has routed Dem challenger Victor Weers in the 98th AD.

-- By Andy Szal

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 10:53 PM 

Health care referendums on pace to pass

The health care reform referendums placed on the ballot in 22 counties and municipalities for this election are off to a good start, according to referendum organizers Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

The group says the referendums are on pace to pass in all 10 races where returns have come in as of 10:30 p.m.

See the early results here.

-- By Andy Szal

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 10:46 PM 

Schaber opens up lead on Egelhoff

Democrat Penny Bernard Schaber has a 14-point lead on Republican Jo Egelhoff in the 57th AD with 29 percent reporting.

Schaber has 57 percent to Egelhoff's 43 percent. The two are vying to replace retiring GOP Rep. Steve Wieckert.

-- By Greg Bump

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 10:37 PM 

Dems at Milwaukee party celebrate Obama win

Dems cheered Obama's victory at their election watch party at the Milwaukee Hyatt Regency.

Mayor Tom Barrett called this a great night for Milwaukee, Wisconsin and a "great night for the United States of America."

"I'm very confident that Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States," Barrett said. He said that eight years of George Bush has "set the stage" for tonight.

Long-time U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, D-Milwaukee, said that "our country has serious" problems here and abroad. And he promised that he would work with both Democrats and Republicans to move the country ahead.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, who declared her own election victory tonight, praised Obama and said that "he is going to have a mandate" when he enters the White House.

Moore announced to a cheering crowd that "... for eight long years we have seen the behind of the elephant."

Moore called her own re-election "a privilege."




-- By Samantha Hernandez

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 10:33 PM 

Honadel trailing

Incumbent GOP Rep. Mark Honadel, who was expected to have an easy re-election, is down by 10 points with 75 percent of precincts reporting.

Dem Glen Brower has 55 percent while Honadel has 45 percent.

-- By Greg Bump

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 10:27 PM 

Ripp posts narrow win in the 47th

The Assembly may have its first recount of the 2008 election, with Republican Keith Ripp and Dem Trish O'Neil ending in a virtual tie for the 47th AD.

Ripp and O'Neill tied with 48 percent of the vote, but Ripp received 28 more votes than O'Neill. Ripp received 15,446 to O'Neil's 15,418 with 100 percent of precincts reporting.

Independent candidate Dennis Hruby received 4 percent of the vote, or 1,386 votes.

-- By Greg Bump

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 10:21 PM 

McCain concedes

John McCain has conceded to Barack Obama, just moments ago delivering his concession speech in Phoenix.

"The American people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly," McCain said.

McCain said he recognized the special significance of Obama's election to African Americans and the "pride they must be feeling tonight." He said this is a watershed moment in American history.

"Let there be no reason now for any American not to cherish their citizenship in this, the greatest country on Earth," he said.

McCain acknowledged there may be some bitterness among those who supported him, but urged supporters they "must move beyond it to get America moving again."

-- By Greg Bump

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 10:04 PM 

Ryan says GOP needs "house cleaning"

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan told Fox News that Republicans need to go "back to our roots" and become a big ideas and reform party that it used to be.

"We can't be afraid of our principles anymore. We can't be afraid of taking political risks anymore," Ryan said, complaining that Republicans had been too afraid and bought too much into the earmark system and had lost their way. "We've had too much political fear in our party. ... We've seen what that's gotten us."

Ryan, considering a rising star in the GOP caucus, sidestepped a question about who should lead House Republicans, saying he didn't want to "get into personality issues about leadership." He decried the "Europeanizing" of American government, saying the GOP needs to take its case for reforming entitlement programs and limiting spending.

"Earmarks is a symptom," Ryan said. "The problem is we went big government."


-- By JR Ross and Andy Szal

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 9:57 PM 

Hopper wins 18th SD

The Senate Republicans will hold onto the open Oshkosh-area 18th District, previously represented by Sen. Carol Roessler.

Oshkosh small business owner Randy Hopper is projected to defeat Oshkosh Common Council member Jessica King. Currently, Hopper leads King 56-44 with half of the district's precincts reporting.

-- By Andy Szal

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 9:51 PM 

Barackin' the vote



Obama supporters stationed on 27th and Wells Street in Milwaukee encourage passers by to vote shortly before the polls closed. Several motorist honked and shouted words of encouragement as they drove past the festive supporters.

-- By David Wise

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 9:41 PM 

Lasee seizes lead; Bies, Petrowski have advantages

Incumbent GOP Rep. Frank Lasee has taken a lead in the 2nd AD with a third of precincts reporting.

Lasee has 52 percent of the vote while challenger Dem Zigmunt has 48 percent.

Also, in the 1st AD with 80 percent reporting, GOP incumbent Garey Bies has 51 percent of the vote to 49 percent over Dem challenger Dick Skare.

In the 86th AD, GOP incumbent Jerry Petrowski has a 55-45 over Dem Nate Myszka with 27 percent reporting.

-- By Greg Bump

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 9:38 PM 

Thompson stops short of calling prez race over

Former Gov. Tommy Thompson stopped just short of declaring John McCain's chances for the presidency over during an interview on CNBC.

Thompson said all indications were that it was almost impossible for McCain to win with Ohio and Pennsylvania already in Obama's column and Indiana still too close to call more than three hours after the polls there had closed.

"Those states need to be going for a Republican and going early in order for a Republican to win," said Thompson, appearing via satellite from Milwaukee. "It's going to be a long night, but it's not going to be a good night for Republicans."

Thompson, who abandoned his own bid for the presidency in August 2007, has been critical of McCain's campaign in recent weeks and told CNBC that the Republican's campaign was "not put together properly."

"It's easy to be critical, but the truth of the matter is Obama had a clear message, no more extension of bush, no more, no more," Thompson said.

The former Health and Human Services secretary also said he expects Dems to push a mandate through on health care to move toward a nationalized system. He said he didn't expect Obama to stand up to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., on the issue.

"It's a terrible step," Thompson said. "I think it's the wrong step for health care. But I think it's coming."

-- By JR Ross

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 9:33 PM 

Soletski leads in 88th AD

Freshman Rep. Jim Soletski, D-Green Bay and one of the top GOP Assembly targets, has a 58-42 lead over Tony Theisen of Green Bay; 64 percent of precincts have reported.

-- By Andy Szal

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 9:24 PM 

Garthwaite holding lead

Dem Rep. Phil Garthwaite, a top target for the GOP this election, is up on his Republican challenger with 24 percent reporting.

Garthwaite has 53 percent while Republican Travis Tranel has 47 percent.

-- By Greg Bump

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 9:17 PM 

Evening rush in Milwaukee smaller than expected

The evening rush was smaller than anticipated in Milwaukee, and few sites still had lines as polls were closing, Milwaukee Election Commission Assistant Director Neil Albrecht said.

Albrecht estimated that the city will begin publishing results at about 9:30 p.m.
While he said turnout appeared high, it is still unclear whether it will reach the 75 to 80 percent level he had anticipated.

Albrecht credited the roughly 2,400 election workers on duty today with helping the city avoid major problems. Among the election workers were city, county and state employees brought in to help.

Additionally, Alverno College canceled classes for the day and more than 200 students and faculty members volunteered at the polls.

Several corporations also gave workers a day off to help out.

Responding to reports that an Obama supporter was delivering food to poll workers at at least one site, Albrecht said it was done with good intentions.

"I don't think it was anything nefarious," Albrecht said, adding that it would have been best had the chief election inspector at the site had not accepted the donation.

-- By David Wise

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 9:09 PM 

Davis looks to hold Dem-leaning district

Rep. Brett Davis, R-Oregon, appears poised to survive yet another Democratic challenge.

The 80th Assembly District, which is expected to tilt heavily toward Barack Obama, currently shows Davis leading challenger John Waelti of Monroe 57 percent to 43 percent with 73 percent of precincts reporting.

-- By Andy Szal

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 9:03 PM 

Newly independent Rep. Wood trails early on

In one of the more unusual legislative races, incumbent Jeff Wood of Chetek, now running as an independent, is down slightly to his GOP opponent in the early going.

Don Moga of Jim Falls, who acquired enough write-in votes in the 67th AD Republican primary to get his name on the ballot, leads Wood 51-49 with 28 percent of the vote in.

-- By Andy Szal

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 9:02 PM 

Update: Ripp, O'Neil virtually tied with 44 percent in

In the race to replace retiring GOP Rep. Eugene Hahn, Republican Keith Ripp and Dem Trish O'Neil are virtually tied with 48 percent of the vote. Ripp holds a slight advantage in the vote, though, with 9,545 to O'Neil's 9,531.

Independent candidate Dennis Hruby has received 4 percent of the vote.

--By Greg Bump

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 8:59 PM 

Former Rep. Towns leading incumbent Hixson

In a rematch of one of the closest races in the 2006 Assembly races, Dem Rep. Kim Hixson is trailing Debi Towns in the 43rd Assembly district.

With 20 percent reporting, Hixson has 49 percent of the vote, while Towns has 51 percent.

Hixson beat Towns by just eight votes in 2006.

-- By Greg Bump

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 8:58 PM 

8th CD remains close; all other incumbents advance

With 13 percent of 8th CD precincts reporting, Steve Kagen has an early 51-49 lead on John Gard in their rematch of the 2006 midterms.

The 8th was anticipated to be the only close call of Wisconsin's Congressional races, and those suspicions have been confirmed as all other Wisconsin U.S. Reps. will head back to Washington next year.

GOP U.S. Reps. Tom Petri, Paul Ryan, and Jim Sensenbrenner, along with Dem U.S. Reps. Tammy Baldwin, Ron Kind, Gwen Moore, and Dave Obey, have all been projected to win their respective races.

-- By Andy Szal

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 8:56 PM 

Wisconsin exit polling in

The exit polling for Wisconsin voters helps shed some light on Obama's projected win here.

More than half of those surveyed picked the economy as the No. 1 issue facing the country, and Obama had a significant edge with those voters.

On the qualities that mattered most to voters, McCain did better with voters who felt he shared their values and had the right experience. Obama did better with those who felt he could bring about needed change and felt he cared about people like them.

See the exit polling memo for Wisconsin:
http://media.jsonline.com/documents/Wisconsin_exitpoll1.pdf

-- By JR Ross

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 8:56 PM 

Clark up on Hines in early going

Republican incumbent Rep. J.A. "Doc" Hines is trailing his Democratic challenger with 23 percent of the district reporting.

Dem Fred Clark has 57 percent of the vote, while Hines has 43 percent in the early going.

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 8:50 PM 

Dems cheer, Republicans silent at call for Obama

Dems cheered the national networks' decision to call Wisconsin for Obama early, while Republicans seemed resigned to it.

About 250 people had already gathered at Monona Terrace in downtown Madison when the networks made the call.

State Dem Chair Joe Wineke mused, "It must have been a forgone conclusion. It only took them a minute to call Wisconsin for Obama."

Democrats continued filing in after the announcement, and Gov. Jim Doyle was shaking hands among the small, early crowd.

The room at the Country Springs Hotel in Pewaukee, where Republicans gathered to watch returns, was largely quiet after the call was made.

State Sen. Ted Kanavas, R-Brookfield, said Obama's victory didn't depress the crowd because it was expected. He said the tighter races around the state in Senate and Assembly races will better test the crowd.

"I don't think anyone expected Senator McCain to win Wisconsin," Kanavas said. "We had seen too much polling that said this year Wisconsin is going for Obama."
More people were filling in the hotel. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen have both made appearances but no speeches yet. Van Hollen is making his rounds with Wisconsin television stations while other GOP revelers fill in.

UPDATE: A delighted Doyle thanked the crowd in Madison profusely for Obama's win in Wisconsin. He said his support here made it possible for him to focus on states like Florida, Ohio and Indiana.

"We need change," Doyle said. "I would have voted for anybody for change. I had the great privilege this year to vote for a man with incredible vision who has talked honestly and decently with America's people."

At the GOP party, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen and Republican Party of Wisconsin Chair Reince Priebus made their first podium appearances of the night and insisted to revelers that Wisconsin has not been lost to Obama.

Van Hollen said people should not give up their hopes until all the votes are counted. He reminded the audience of one Wisconsin news station that called the 2006 election for his opponent, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, right as the polls closed.

Priebus said he hadn't even had a beer yet when a reporter called him around 8 p.m. for a reaction to Obama's reported victory in Wisconsin. Even so, Priebus gave some indication that the night might hold bad news yet for Republicans.

"I realize that we are in a rebuilding process in the party," he told the crowd.

-- By Keegan Kyle and Tracy Will

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 8:45 PM 

Dem Zigmunt has slim lead GOP's Lasee

Dem challenger Ted Zigmunt has taken a suprising early lead in the 2nd AD against incumbent GOP Rep. Frank Lasee. Zigmunt has 51 percent of the votes with 29 percent of the district reporting, while Lasee has 49 percent.

The race was not in the top tier of races expected to be close today. But some groups have targeted Lasee, including teachers' union WEAC which spent $276,488 supporting Zigmunt, according to reports filed with the Government Accountability Board.

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 8:37 PM 

Ripp has early lead in 47th AD race

Republican Keith Ripp has jumped out to an early lead over Democrat Trish O'Neil in the race for the 47th Assembly District.

With 21 percent reporting, Ripp has 50 percent of the vote, while O'Neil has 46 percent. Independent candidate Dennis Hruby is polling at 4 percent.

The candidates are vying to replace GOP Rep. Eugene Hahn.

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 7:44 PM 

Counties to watch in prez race

With the polls getting ready to close, here are a few Wisconsin counties to keep an eye on for the presidential race.

Brown County: It typically has a good GOP lean to it, but it's a swing county this time around. George Bush received 67,173 votes there four years ago compared to 54,935 for John Kerry. It's a bad sign for the GOP in general that some see this as a swing county, but that's the environment Republicans are facing this fall.
Brown County results

Milwaukee, Dane counties: About 32 percent of Kerry's votes statewide came from these two counties four years ago. Kerry received 297,653 votes in Milwaukee County compared to 180,287 for Bush. In Dane, it was 181,052 for Kerry and 90,369 for Bush.
Dane County results

Waukesha County: This is a good measure of the GOP base. Four years ago, Bush won 154,926 votes there compared to 73,626 for Kerry. If the margin here is significantly closer, it would be a bad sign for McCain.
Waukesha County results (PDF - updated every 30 min.)

Racine County: Bush won the county in both 2000 and 2004, and it's had a slight GOP lean at the top of the ticket. It's another bellwether county to get a feel for how the state is breaking.
Racine County results

-- By JR Ross

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 6:34 PM 

Barrett pleased with Milwaukee elections so far

Everything is running smoothly with the vote in Milwaukee so far, Mayor Tom Barrett says, but a late rush at the polls is still expected.

"We're not going to be popping any champagne right now," Barrett said during a media briefing this evening.

But Barrett said there have been no reports of major problems, and he is pleased how the election's gone so far.

Barrett said that the polls close at 8 p.m., but anyone in line at that time will be allowed to vote.

Election officials began counting absentee ballots this morning at a central processing site. Barrett estimated there were more than 40,000 absentee ballots cast.

This morning, a Milwaukee detective challenged seven absentee ballots on the grounds they were cast by non-residents. Three who submitted ballots stepped forward and withdrew those ballots. Barrett said the district attorney is investigating.

The detective who brought the challenge, Mike Sandvick, was cited in a Wall Street Journal column today as saying the department was seeking to disband its five-member Special Investigations Unit he's a member of. The SIU released an unauthorized report in February on fraud in the 2004 election. Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn denied that the unit was being disbanded and other claims made in the article during a radio interview this morning.

Barrett said he has no knowledge of any plans to disband the unit.

-- By David Wise

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 5:24 PM 

First round of exit polling

The first round of exit polling is in.

The economy is the top issue, cited by 62 percent of those surveyed, according to a report from CNN. Iraq was next at 10 percent, followed by terrorism and health care, both of which clocked in at 9 percent.

At least 40 percent says their family's financial situation has gotten worse in the past four years, according to an Associated Press report on the polling, while a third said it's about the same and a quarter say it's gotten better.

See a roundup of the reports:
http://thepage.time.com/2008/11/04/first-taste-of-the-exit-polls/?xid=rss-page

-- By JR Ross


 4:43 PM 

Bomb scare at Middleton polling place

Middleton elections officials have moved a polling site from the local high school to the city's fire station following a reported bomb threat on the original site.

Dane County Clerk Bob Ohlsen said his office did not have many details about the incident, but said it took about 15 minutes to move the operation to the alternate polling site. The clerk's office said all of their sites have contingency plans in preparation for just such an occasion.

Ohlsen said he advised Middleton officials to contact the Government Accountability Board regarding any need to keep the polls open late tonight.

-- By Andy Szal

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 3:38 PM 

CNN tallies voter complaint calls

CNN's voter hotline had tallied 277 complaint calls from Wisconsin by mid-afternoon with the biggest problem reported having to do with absentee ballots.

The hotline had tallied 32,877 complaint calls just after 3:30 p.m. CDT. Wisconsin was among those states with a low rate of problems. Those with high rates included Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, New Jersey, South Carolina, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

More than a third of the complaint calls in Wisconsin originated in Milwaukee County with Dane County next at 11 percent and Racine County third at 6 percent.

After absentee ballot problems, the most frequently cited problems were poll access and "integrity," which includes voters claiming to have witnesses some kind of fraud or questions about whether their votes would count.

See the tally on complaint calls for each state:
http://www.cnn.com/ELECTION/2008/voter.hotline/

-- By JR Ross

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 3:18 PM 

Careful with those exit polls

There's no sign yet of the early exit poll leaks that led some to believe John Kerry was headed to victory in 2004, but if they do leak early again, one Dem-leaning polling expert has 10 reasons they should be ignored.

Nate Silver, writing on his blog http://www.fivethirtyeight.com, says the polls consistently overstate the Democratic share of the vote, often end up with a non-random sample and have margins of error "somewhere between 50-90% higher than they would be for comparable telephone surveys."

Read his entire post for more.

-- By Staff


 3:05 PM 

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 2:51 PM 

Kenosha church serving as polling places takes down anti-abortion message

A Kenosha pastor says his church, which also serves as a polling place, was told by an election official to take down or cover a sign out front that read "Want change? Pray to end abortion."

Pastor Todd Peperkorn wrote on his blog that he had the sign put on the church message board to have something up that was conscious of today's election without endorsing a particular candidate.

The city clerk, however, told the church that the sign had to be covered or taken down because it might influence voters. The church complied with the request.

Peperkorn wrote the episode raised some questions for him as a pastor about a church's role in an election if it limits "the ability of that same church to be a prophetic voice in the world."

Peperkorn did not immediately return a call from WisPolitics this afternoon.

See his blog post, which includes a picture of the sign:
http://lutheranlogomaniac.com/?p=212

-- By JR Ross

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 2:32 PM 

Reports from the field

Several bloggers and group Web sites are reporting on election news throughout the day in Wisconsin. Clck the links below to see what they're seeing on the ground.

Do you know of a site or a blogger we're missing? E-mail wisopinion@wispolitics.com with a link.

Group efforts:
*The Daily Page (Madison)
- Submitted Twitters from people voting around Madison
- Discussion of voting reports
*Dane 101 (Dane County):
- Morning live-blog
- Afternoon live-blog
*No Runny Eggs
*Racine Post
*Wisconsin Voter Fraud

Individuals:
*Christian Schneider
*Wendy Robinson
*Michael Leon
*Ann Althouse
*Andy Tarnoff
*Tim Rock
*Cindy Kilkenny
*Dan Cody
*Nick Schweitzer
*Gregory Humphrey
*Emily Mills

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 2:11 PM 

City clerks report brisk turnout, no problems at polls

The mid-day returns are coming into city clerks around the state, and turnout appears to be expectedly brisk so far.

The City of Madison counted 42,236 voters as of 11 a.m., but the mayor's office noted that the number will likely rise as more complete results come in. A spokeswoman for Mayor Cieslewicz said that both the polls and the clerk's office are "buzzing."

In Green Bay, City Clerk Doug Daul said voter turnout is on track to break 100 percent when factoring in new registrants. He was in the process of ordering more ballots to select polling places.

The City of Eau Claire is busy delivering addition ballots and same-day voter registration forms to its polling places. As of 12 p.m., 26.6 percent of that city's registered voters had hit the polls.

Conservative-leaning Waukesha has seen things going smoothly at the polls to this point, with no lines currently reported at polling places according to Deputy Clerk Gina Kozlik. The City of La Crosse is also reporting heavy turnout, but with no problems reported so far.

-- By Andy Szal

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 11:04 AM 

Milwaukee voters getting the chance to meet their neighbors

Eileen Force, communications director for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, said the city is experiencing record voter turnout today, with very long lines at some polling sites.

"We are just telling people to be patient, and take the opportunity to meet their neighbors," Force said.

She said there were reports of a couple voting machines jamming, but the problem was cleared up immediately and the ballots were fed through.

Regarding today's Wall Street Journal story about the Milwaukee Police Departments Special Investigations Unit for election fraud, Force said the unit was not being disbanded, and that the story contained "some inaccuracies." She said Barrett has had no discussion with police officials about disbanding the unit.

-- By Greg Bump

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 10:44 AM 

Flynn says special unit for election fraud will not be disbanded

Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn responded this morning to a story by Wall Street Journal reporter John Fund's article alleging that the city's Special Investigative Unit monitoring election fraud was being disbanded. Fund also says that the unit was directed not to visit polling places, but merely were told to respond to complaints.

See the WSJ article, Milwaukee Puts a Vote-Fraud Cop Out of Business

Flynn said this morning on Charlie Syke's show on WTMJ that no one in his chain of command is aware of a discussion to disband.

"There's never been any plan or any discussion to disband the special investigations unit. Not once," he said.

Flynn said officers in the unit have been assigned to squad cars and driving around the city. But he said that doesn't mean they won't be responding to complaints.

"I want them to be available to respond to complaints ... they're not sitting by a phone, they're in the field," Flynn said.

In addition, a special order was given all police officers that if they observe any suspicious condition or election law violations at polling places, they are to take "proactive action," Flynn said.

"I do want us to be immediately available to complaints," he said. "We're making a major effort to make sure this is a free, fair election process."

Asked by Sykes if Flynn received any pressure from Mayor Tom Barrett's office or Gov. Jim Doyle's office to conduct the unit in any manner, Flynn replied, "Not in the slightest."

Listen to the podcast with Flynn here.

Listen to the podcast with Fund here.

-- By Greg Bump

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 10:29 AM 

Newspaper endorsements favor Obama

Wisconsin newspaper endorsements have favored Barack Obama over John McCain.

The following are links to endorsements that are still posted on various papers' Web sites. The Shawano Leader has also endorsed Obama, while the Janesville Gazette has backed McCain.

For Obama

-Wisconsin State Journal: Now is the time for Obama
http://www.madison.com/wsj/home/opinion/309127

-Chippewa Herald: Barack Obama for president
http://www.chippewa.com/articles/2008/10/26/news/doc4903d50515f7f246703910.txt

-Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Face of change belongs to Obama, Experience and
being a maverick were said to be John McCain's assets. He squandered
each with breathtakingly faulty judgment.
http://www.jsonline.com/news/opinion/33263704.html

-Kenosha News: Barack Obama for president, Long campaign shows us a
steady, effective leader
http://www.kenoshanews.com/article_comments/view_comments.php?articleNum=3714508

-La Crosse Tribune editorial: For president, the Tribune endorses, Barack Obama
http://www.lacrossetribune.com/articles/2008/10/26/opinion/editorial/00ourview1026.txt

-Stevens Point Journal: Obama is the man to lead nation forward
http://www.stevenspointjournal.com/article/20081024/SPJ06/810240405/1712

-Sheboygan Press: Obama our choice for nation's future
http://www.sheboyganpress.com/article/20081102/SHE06/811020400/1109

-The Capital Times: Give Obama a mandate for a progressive presidency
http://www.madison.com/tct/opinion/editorial/310546

For McCain

-Beloit Daily News: For president, John McCain
http://www.beloitdailynews.com/articles/2008/10/29/opinion/todays_opinion/edit01.txt

-Green Bay Press-Gazette: Press-Gazette endorses John McCain for president
http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/article/20081024/GPG0602/81024125/1978

-Sun Prairie Star: McCain-Palin
http://www.sunprairiestar.com/main.asp?SectionID=5&SubSectionID=5&ArticleID=1512

-- By JR Ross


 9:02 AM 

What's at stake

Pundits and the polls have largely suggested that Barack Obama will easily win Wisconsin today, and most observers believe the state Senate will remain in Dem hands once all the votes are counted.

So the real political intrigue in Wisconsin today is focused on two things: Who will control the Assembly? And can U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, D-Appleton, beat Republican John Gard in their re-match for the 8th Congressional District?

Republicans controlled the Assembly 52-47 during the legislative session, but lost one member when state Rep. Jeff Wood of Bloomer declared he was leaving the party to become an independent.

Dems have been keeping their eyes on more than 20 seats through the course of the year. But there are a handful at the top of their list that could determine whether they take back control of the chamber for the first time since losing it in 1994.

Those races include the open seats in the 57th District, which includes Appleton, the 47th District, which includes includes portions of northern Dane County and southern Columbia County, and the 92nd District, which includes portions of Clark, Eau Claire, Jackson and Monroe counties. All three are now in Republican hands.

Dems also consider GOP state Reps. Terry Moulton of Eau Claire, and J.A. "Doc" Hines of Oxford, among the most likely Republican incumbents to fall.

On the other side, Republicans are trying to beat back those challenges while focusing their attention on freshmen Dem Reps. Phil Garthwaite of Fennimore and Kim Hixson of Whitewater. They also want to take out Wood with Republican challenger Dan Moga. If Republicans can pick off one of those three, they can afford to lose two seats and still have a 50-49 majority.

As for the 8th CD, most insiders believe the Dem feel to 2008 gives Kagen an edge over Gard in the Republican-leaning district. But the race could be another close one, and some Republicans consider the gaffe-prone Kagen one of their few pick up opportunities in an otherwise bleak year for GOP House candidates.

-- By JR Ross

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 9:00 AM 

Minor hiccups at polls this morning; absentee votes could be up 50 percent over '04

Government Accountability Board executive director Kevin Kennedy said some polling places have been experiencing "the usual hiccups" this morning, but there have been no reports of major problems from around the state.

Kennedy said his polling place on Madison's west side had a malfunctioning optical scanner, and there was a report of problems with another scanner at a separate Madison polling place. But poll workers were attempting to troubleshoot. He said when a scanner goes down, the ballots are placed in an auxilliary box in the machine and are scanned in later by poll workers as time allows.

Kennedy also said in a release that a preliminary review of absentee voting trends in select municipalities indicates the state’s 2008 absentee votes could increase by as much as 50 percent over 2004.

According to Kennedy, the total 2004 absentee vote statewide was 364,639. However, as of today, an examination of absentee voter data for select municipalities in Brown, Dane, Milwaukee and Waukesha counties shows at least an overall 50 percent increase over 2004.

Overall, Kennedy predicted turnout to reach 3.2 million statewide for this election, topping the previous state record of more than 3 million in 2000.

See a GAB press release on early balloting here.

-- By Greg Bump

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 8:43 AM 

Republicans, Democrats Election Night party plans

Wisconsin Republicans will gather at the Country Springs Hotel in Pewaukee at 8 p.m. and at Victory Centers around the state. The Pewaukee gathering is hosted by the Republican Party of Wisconsin, Waukesha County GOP, Congressman Paul Ryan and Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, and will be open to the public.

See details on more GOP parties here.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has two big events planned tonight, both starting at 9 p.m.

Gov. Jim Doyle and Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin will headline the Madison Election Night Celebration at the Monona Terrace. DPW Chairman Joe Wineke, Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, State Sen. Mark Miller, and State Rep. Mark Pocan will also be on hand. Members of the public are welcome.

U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, Congresswoman Gwen Moore and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett will headline the Milwaukee Election Night Celebration at the Hyatt Regency. Members of the public are welcome.

-- By Staff

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 8:17 AM 

Voters hit the polls early on Election Day

Long lines greeted voters this morning before the polls even opened.

The line at an east side Madison polling place was 100-people long before doors opened at 7 a.m., but the line moved quickly. One observer who arrived at the poll at 6:45 a.m. had cast the 110th ballot by 7:35 a.m.

At the polling place at Madison's James Madison Park, the line to vote was several hundred long at 7:45 a.m.

At Milwaukee's Gordon Park Pavillion, in the RiverWest neighborhood, there were 70 to 80 people in line at 6:45 a.m. There were 200 people in line by the time the poll opened.

-- By Staff

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 8:11 AM 

Health care, education referendums share ballot with candidates

A good chunk of the expected record number Wisconsinites going to the polls today will get the opportunity to directly weigh in on education and health care spending in addition to top state and federal officeholders.

Voters in 34 school districts face school spending referendums today, while 22 county and city ballots will feature an advisory referendum on guaranteeing health coverage for state citizens.

The districts have 43 total school referendum questions totaling more than $307 million in additional spending. Most of the big referendums will be held in suburban and rural areas, with the largest total on the ballot in Jefferson. That community's school district is asking for $40.9 million -- $13 million-plus more than any other proposal.

Other large referendums include: the Kiel Area School District, seeking $27.4 million in three referendums; Watertown, with $26.3 million on the ballot in two referendums; Brillion at $23.7 million; Rhinelander, which proposed two measures totaling $23.6 million after identical proposals failed in April; Germantown, with two measures totaling $23 million; La Crosse at $18.5 million; Lake Mills at $15.6 million; St. Francis at $14.9 million; and Poynette at $13.7 million.

The next largest referendum, which would designate $13 million for the Madison Metropolitan School District, heads to almost-certain heavy turnout in one of the state's most important liberal population centers. That measure has already caused some controversy after city officials reported some early ballots were printed without the referendum. City Clerk Maribeth Witzel-Behl says the total number of affected ballots appears to be less than 20, but urged the affected voters to come forward and receive corrected ballots.

Meanwhile, two referendums in one of the state's more critical conservative population centers have been left off the ballot altogether. The West Bend School Board voted earlier this month to move $68.9 million in proposed spending to the April 2009 election, citing voters' concerns about the nation's economic turmoil.

West Bend voters rejected a $119.3 million school referendum one year ago, and the new proposals would have been easily the highest total on the November ballot. Taking the controversial spending measure off the table could take a toll on turnout in the heavily conservative community, which has already reported relatively flat absentee ballot request levels to WisPolitics for this election cycle.

See all scheduled school referendums here.

Citizen Action-spurred health care referendum around state

Citizen Action of Wisconsin has launched an effort to move health care reform to the front of the legislative agenda next year, with up to 750,000 voters set to take up advisory referendums on universal health care Tuesday.

Robert Kraig, director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin, predicted the measures will benefit from the estimated record turnout. The group helped land the referendums on 22 county and city ballots statewide.

In 20 of the 22 referendums, the question is: "Shall the next state Legislature enact health care reform legislation by December 31st, 2009 that guarantees every Wisconsin resident affordable health care coverage as good as what is provided to state legislators?" Dane and Douglas counties have slightly different language.

The referendums will be on the ballot in the counties of Barron, Dane, Douglas, La Crosse, Polk and Washburn, and the cities of Appleton, Altoona, Black River Falls, Eau Claire, Hudson, Green Bay, Menasha, Menomonie, Mondovi, New Richmond, Oak Creek, Oshkosh, River Falls, South Milwaukee, Tomah, and Viroqua.

Kraig said the group tried to get the question on the ballot in municipalities with competitive Assembly or Senate races. Citizen Action sees the referendums as "an agenda-setting" proposal that forced candidates to discuss it in their campaigns and beyond, Kraig said. By Citizen Action's estimate, 750,000 voters could cast ballots on the issue.

Kraig said the question shouldn't be seen as a referendum on Healthy Wisconsin, the universal health care package passed by Democrats who control the Senate. The package was included in the budget approved by the Senate, but was negotiated out of the final document. Dem Gov. Jim Doyle this week again voiced his disapproval for the Healthy Wisconsin plan.

"It doesn't have to be Healthy Wisconsin," Kraig said. "Healthy Wisconsin is a very bold plan, but all this referendum says is we would like to see a plan that meets these goals"

See more on the Citizen Action effort here.

-- By Andy Szal and Greg Bump

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 6:00 AM 

A quick primer for Election Day

Happy Election Day!

The polls open at 7 a.m. today, and here are some handy sites to check before you go.

Need to know if you're registered and your polling place information? Check here.

Before you go out to vote, you might want to check the Government Accountability Board's release on the "Top 10 Things a Wisconsin Voter Should Know for Election Day."

Can't remember who's on the ballot? Here's a handy list from the Legislative Reference Bureau of every candidate that will be on the ballot for the U.S. House of Representatives, the state Senate and the state Senate.

Here are some more useful links from WisPolitics:

The WisPolitics Presidential Page:
http://blogs.wispolitics.com/election/president08.html

The WisPolitics Election Page:
http://www.wispolitics.com/index.Iml?Article=127612

And if for some reason, you haven't had enough political ads to hold you over to the next election, check the WisPolitics AdWatch page:
http://www.wispolitics.com/index.Iml?Content=24

-- By JR Ross

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Monday, November 3, 2008

 11:30 PM 

WisPolitics interviews leading up to Election Day

WisPolitics has been doing a series of interviews and luncheons leading up to Election Day with both sides weighing in on the 2008 campaign.

Here are snippets from four of them -- from the most recent to the oldest interview -- with a link to more:

Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Joe Wineke 10/31:

Wineke has never been bashful about his side's chances in an election. But he insists they're not taking anything for granted this fall.

"We're always worried. We're Democrats," Wineke said, though he predicted a very good night for Dems next week.

Wineke was optimistic that freshman Dem U.S. Rep. Kagen will win by an "OK number" and said Republican John Gard represents "the Republican Party of the past." He said he "flat-out" predicts Dems will win the Assembly this fall and praised the party's efforts to find good candidates in as many districts as possible. He said it's paid off to have challengers taking on the GOP leadership structure in the Assembly because it has helped keep those lawmakers at home worrying about their own races. By comparison, Dem leaders haven’t had to worry about a challenge, freeing them up to raise money for other candidates and help them knock on doors.

See more from Wineke:
http://www.wispolitics.com/index.Iml?Article=140583

State GOP Chair Reince Priebus 10/24:

Priebus says it's not over.

With polls showing John McCain trailing Barack Obama in battleground states, in some cases by significant margins, told WisPolitics he sees positive signs in the presidential race that make him believe the Republican nominee has a path to victory. They include questions he says the public still has about who Obama really is.

He also said Obama's primary loss in the New Hampshire Dem primary after leading in various polls tells him that the national surveys shouldn't necessarily be trusted as the final word on the race.

"I do think that John McCain is going to do much better than the polls are showing today," Priebus said. "Just like last week seems like last year, I think next week is going to seem like an eternity."

See more from Priebus:
http://www.wispolitics.com/index.Iml?Article=139992

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, 10/27:

Ryan warned of the bad things congressional Democrats likely will do if they gain wide majorities in Congress and have Barack Obama in the White House.

Ryan said the race will tighten in its final days, and that his own campaign was going well. But Ryan sounded like he was bracing for a bad Election Day.

"I don't want to have a lonely victory, but I worry that it could be a pretty lonely night," Ryan told an Oct. 27 WisPolitics.com luncheon at the Madison Club.

See more from Ryan:
http://www.wispolitics.com/index.Iml?Article=140584

Dem pollster Paul Maslin Oct. 16:

Maslin says the intrigue of the 2008 presidential race is over, predicting that Barack Obama will coast to a victory where the national margin could reach double digits.

But Maslin, who has served as an adviser to presidential, Senate and gubernatorial candidates, says the fascinating chapter will begin on Nov. 5.

"Barack Obama is going to be elected and essentially take office the next day," Maslin told a WisPolitics luncheon Oct. 16. "For all intents and purposes he's president on Nov. 5. He better cut whatever deal he wants to with Bush right from the get-go because we're not going to have the luxury of blaming Republicans any more."

See more from Maslin:
http://www.wispolitics.com/index.Iml?Article=139360

-- By Staff

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 7:52 PM 

Van Hollen responds to Kanavas, Zipperer

State Sen. Ted Kanavas, R-Brookfield, and state Rep. Rich Zipperer, R-Pewaukee, sent a letter to Van Hollen Oct. 14 asking for an update on the Department of Justice’s activities to curb false voter registrations and voter fraud.

Van Hollen wrote in response Monday that he's "committed to protecting the integrity of elections from any form of unlawful behavior and ensuring electoral fairness."

Van Hollen said while he can't provide details about pending investigations, he has: worked with the GAB to make changes to application forms and training for special registration deputies and to clarify residency requirements; instituted a civil lawsuit against the GAB to "require statutorily required checks on voter registration"; established a task force with the Milwaukee DA's office to investigate and prosecute election-related crimes; will be providing prosecutors and law enforcement officials statewide with resource materials on election issues; and is sending assistant AGs and special investigators to various polling locations in the state.

See the letter:
http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/081103VanHollenletter2kanavaszpperer.pdf

-- By Greg Bump

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 7:50 PM 

DOJ's effort in 2004 recalled

DOJ officials have defended the move to monitor the polls by pointing out it's similar to an effort undertaken by then-AG Peg Lautenschlager in 2004.

A Van Hollen spokesman pointed to a press release from the Lautenschlager-led DOJ dated Oct. 23, 2004, in which she announced she was sending 40 assistant AGs and agents from the Department of Criminal Investigation to ensure compliance with state election laws.

See the 2004 press release:
http://www.wispolitics.com/1006/081030DOJmonitors.pdf

But Lautenschlager objected to the comparison this week, accusing Van Hollen of trying to suppress the vote. She said her effort was designed to protect the right to vote, not stand in the way of eligible voters.

"Our focus was on ensuring that people with the right to vote can vote," Lautenschlager said. "His focus singularly is on voter suppression. If you couple this with his role in the McCain campaign, his statements as a candidate for office, his actions as attorney general, his actions in the Government Accountability Board lawsuit and his actions on sending folks out to monitor the polls, it’s clear that his singular focus is voter suppression."

DOJ spokesman Bill Cosh said the agency is relying on some of the same materials that Lautenschlager used four years ago and that the agency has explained its intentions clearly.

"Demagoguery has no place in a democracy," Cosh said.

-- By JR Ross

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 7:48 PM 

Van Hollen poll-watching plan stirs controversy

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen will have 50 state prosecutors and special agents at polls in a dozen areas of the state today in an effort "to ensure compliance with state laws governing elections."

But Democrats have objected to the action, suggesting it's a move by Van Hollen, the head of John McCain's Wisconsin campaign, to suppress the vote.

DOJ says the assistant attorneys general and Division of Criminal Investigation agents will be in Superior, Green Bay, Eau Claire, Appleton/Fox Valley, La Crosse, Hudson, Wausau/Stevens Point, Beloit/Janesville, Racine/Kenosha, Waukesha, Milwaukee and Madison.

Van Hollen said the agency is also working as part of an elections task force with the Milwaukee County district attorney and the Milwaukee Police Department.

Dem Gov. Jim Doyle, a former attorney general himself, criticized the move last week, saying the AG "has no authority to supervise elections."

-- By Greg Bump

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 6:23 PM 

A summary of presidential polling in Wisconsin

Wisconsin was supposed to be a battleground state in the battle for the presidency. But it hasn't quite turned out that way.

Barack Obama has had the edge in every publicly released poll of Wisconsin collected at Real Clear Politics since May. The last time John McCain was up was a poll done May 5 by Rasmussen that had him at 47 percent to 43 percent for Obama.

But since then, Obama's lead has ranged from a single percentage point in mid-September to 16 points in a Survey USA poll conducted Oct. 28-29.

The latest poll came out today. Strategic Vision had Obama up 53-40.

Here's the Real Clear Politics summary for Wisconsin polls.

-- By JR Ross

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 5:39 PM 

On election eve, Palin urges enthused GOP-ers to 'go with your gut'

DUBUQUE, IOWA -- Sarah Palin, in one of her final '08 campaign stops, urged more than 5,000 enthusiastic Republicans here on Election Eve to "go with your gut"
and vote against higher taxes and for John McCain.

The appeal from the Alaska governor and VP candidate came at a rally
full of patriotic messages. Hank Williams Jr. came out on stage with
Palin and sang the "Star Spangled Banner" and later belted out his
pro-McCain and Palin version of "Family Tradition."

Dressed in a red jacket and blue jeans, Palin thanked the crowd for
waiting so patiently, after taking the podium to shrieks of approval.

"We're near the end of a campaign trail that for John McCain has lasted
these very many, many months. Victory is where he is headed," Palin
predicted.

"A few hours from now, the time for choosing is near. Are you ready to
carry this state to victory? Are you ready to elect John McCain as
president of the United States? Are you ready to send us to Washington
to shake things up?" Palin asked the crowd, some of whom came over the
Mississippi River from Wisconsin.

Palin spoke to the crowd for a half hour before continuing the final
leg of her campaign tour. She stayed close to the stump speech, echoing
support for the "maverick" and "American hero" and attacking the
Democratic opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, "that we're only getting to
know in this eleventh hour."

"Do the math, or go with your gut. Obama is for bigger government and
higher taxes. See what his intentions are here. It's so phony," she
complained.

See more coverage of the Palin rally from IowaPolitics.com:
http://www.iowapolitics.com/index.Iml?Article=140724

-- By Tracy Will

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 4:07 PM 

GAB spokesman: Political attire at polling places a 'gray area'

Election officials are urging people to carefully consider whether to wear attire such as shirts, hats and buttons with political messages on them to polling places on Election Day. And despite guidance from the Government Accountability Board to the contrary, some communities won't allow political gear at all

GAB spokesman Kyle Richmond said that while attempting to influence someone's vote within 100 feet of the entrance to a polling place is prohibited, it's not illegal for people to wear attire with political messages when they go to vote.

But Richmond said the issue is a "gray area," and if a person's attire becomes a disturbance or people complain about it, the chief election inspector at the polling place can ask the person to remove or cover items with political messages on them and ask the person to leave if he or she is causing a disturbance.

Given the hotly contested election and potential for problems, Richmond said people should consider carefully what they wear to the polling place.

"We're trying to make people aware that, in order to avoid problems, it would probably be wiser not to wear that stuff to the polls," Richmond said. "But it's not illegal."

City of Milwaukee Election Commission Executive Director Sue Edman said the city is following the GAB's guidance, and people will be allowed to wear political gear when voting. But they may not loiter at the polling place.

Edman echoed Richmond's advice that the best way for people to avoid any conflict will be to leave the political gear at home when they go to vote.

Clerks and staffers in several other Wisconsin communities, including Green Bay, Racine, Waukesha and La Crosse, all said that political attire is OK, as long as it didn't cause a disturbance or draw complaints.

In cases where it does cause a problem, those WisPolitics talked to generally said the people may be asked to remove the item, or in the cases of items such as shirts, to cover them or turn them inside out.

Not every community, however, is permitting political clothing and flair at the polls.

Marinette City Clerk Jim Anderson disputed the GAB's interpretation of the electioneering statute and said political attire will not be allowed in the city's polling places.

"It's considered electioneering if they have a (political) shirt or hat or button when they come to a poling place," Anderson said.

While the city will not allow political gear, "we're not going to go out of our way to cause a scene or a big hassle," Anderson said.

He said the city sends out news releases in advance so people are aware of the rules.

"We've never really had a problem with it," Anderson said. "People seem to be pretty good about it."

"It's a state statute. If you don't like it, change it."

Richmond said GAB legal counsel told him he sees nothing in state law that would allow an outright ban on political attire at the polling place.

See information on voting in Wisconsin:
http://elections.state.wi.us/section.asp?linkid=270&locid=47

-- By David Wise

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 12:45 PM 

Van Hollen will wait until after election to appeal ruling in GAB suit

State Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen will wait until after Tuesday's election to pursue his appeal of a Dane County judge's decision rejecting his suit seeking to force the Government Accountability Board to run additional checks on new voter registrations, a spokesman said today.

“Recognizing that there is no possibility for relief before the election, we will file the appeal after the election,” DOJ spokesman Bill Cosh said in a statement today via e-mail.

Dane County Judge Maryann Sumi ruled Oct. 23 the GAB's decision to only check new registrations against other state databases starting Aug. 6 didn't violate state or federal law. A Department of Justice spokesman said immediately after the ruling that the agency planned to appeal.

Van Hollen filed the suit amid reports that information on as many as one-fourth of the new registrations that had been checked didn't match up to other state databases. Van Hollen has expressed concerns of potential voter fraud in the Nov. 4 election.

But Sumi said nothing in state or federal statutes requires a "data match" as a condition to vote. Sumi said a voter has the legal right to cast a ballot, and "it doesn't matter if the DOT misspelled his name or her middle initial is missing on a list."

Read the original suit:
http://www.doj.state.wi.us/news/files/326371.pdf

Read a transcript of the judge's ruling:
http://tctvideo.madison.com/vanhollen/vanhollen.pdf

-- By Greg Bump

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