A surge in turnout in Dane and Milwaukee counties clearly affected a tight Supreme Court primary only narrowly won by Justice Rebecca Bradley.
But a check of another half-dozen counties around the state shows other factors propelled JoAnne Kloppenburg to a closer-than-expected finish behind Bradley.
All eight counties had several things in common: turnout was up yesterday compared to 2013, the previous three-way primary for the Supreme Court; Bradley underperformed Justice Pat Roggensack's percentages three years ago, even in deep-red areas; and Kloppenburg easily outpaced Ed Fallone.
Brown County epitomizes that. The county has become a key read in state elections with Republicans and conservatives needing to run up the score there to help offset Dem results in places such as Madison and Milwaukee.
But while turnout nearly doubled -- 20,787 votes yesterday compared to 10,746 in 2013 -- Bradley captured just 47.6 percent of the vote. By comparison, Roggensack won 65.8 percent three years ago. Kloppenburg, meanwhile, won 38.5 percent in Brown County, compared to Fallone's 27.8 percent in 2013.
Turnout in yesterday's Supreme Court race was 12.7 percent of voting-age adults, up from 8.4 percent in 2013. So while Bradley fell short of Roggensack for the share of the overall electorate, the new justice still pulled 252,102 votes to 231,822 for Roggensack.
That was good for 45 percent of the vote yesterday, while Kloppenburg received 43 percent with 243,548 votes and Joe Donald came in a distant third with 68,447, or 12 percent.
This was the first statewide run for Bradley and Donald; it was the second for Kloppenburg, who lost to Justice David Prosser in 2011.
The difference between 2013 and 2016 was perhaps most stark in Eau Claire and La Crosse counties.
Both are areas Dems tend to do well in during presidential elections, but Republicans have proven they can run even when turnout is lower.
In 2013, Roggensack won 54.2 percent of the vote in Eau Claire with 5,130 people turning out in that race, while Fallone was at 40 percent. Yesterday, Kloppenburg won 60.2 percent of the 8,619 votes tallied there, compared to 32.6 percent for Bradley.
In La Crosse County, Roggensack won 58.9 percent of the vote compared to 31.9 percent for Fallone in 2013 as 8,223 cast ballots. But Kloppenburg won the county with 56.9 percent of the 10,712 votes cast, compared to Bradley's 34.6 percent.
When Bradley was appointed to the Supreme Court in October, some backers predicted she would be able to cut into the Dem base of Milwaukee County after serving on the circuit court and then the 1st District Court of Appeals there. But that didn't happen yesterday.
Turnout almost doubled to 112,235 votes yesterday with contested primaries for county exec and mayor. Bradley won a plurality of the vote at 38.2 percent, while Kloppenburg took 36.6 percent. Donald took 25 percent in his home county.
In 2013, Roggensack won 59 percent of the Milwaukee County vote.
Bradley also fell behind Roggensack's percentages in Dane and the conservative collar counties around Milwaukee, where Republicans like to run up the numbers.
-- By JR Ross