It was a nail-biter all night long, as the most-watched state Supreme Court race went into the morning on April 6 with the final result still unclear.
The AP has the vote totals -- 50% for incumbent David Prosser and 50% for challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg.
The race generated historic turnout in Madison and national news coverage as it was widely seen as a referendum on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
If JoAnne Kloppenburg unseated incumbent Republican justice David Prosser, the state court would no longer have a conservative majority and many of Walker's most controversial moves -- including a union-busting law which has been temporarily stopped by a lower court for Republican violations of open-meetings law -- would likely face tougher scrutiny.
But when Kloppenburg declared the race too close to call and went to bed after 1 am on Wednesday, only one-twentieth of 1 % of the vote separated the two candidates. After absentee ballots are counted, the final total will almost certainly generate a recount.
Democrats -- many of whom crammed into Kloppenburg's victory party at the Edgewater hotel -- declared the close race a victory for Kloppenburg, who was outspent 3-to-1 in the most expensive judicial campaign in state history (surpassing even the record-breaking $3.4 billion Gableman/Butler match-up of 2008). But outside groups on both sides drove the historically expensive, mud-slinging television ad campaign according to the Brennan Center.
The mood in the state, as people watched, riveted by the close race, was up and down as precinct totals dribbled in and the lead in the race switched by a small number of votes all night.
Dane County and Milwaukee County, the largest in the state, went for Kloppenburg as expected. Waukesha County, the next largest with half the number of precincts as Milwaukee, went 73% for Prosser.
Turnout in Milwaukee was not as high as in the last election, despite intense national focus on the race. But Madison's Dane County, which went 73% for Kloppenburg, had record-breaking turnout that put its number of voters as high as much-larger Milwaukee's.
Mike McCabe, the executive director of Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, told Newsmax that the flood of campaign cash pouring into the state transcends partisan politics: "It's infected both parties, and so everything that I see is just rife with the influence of the less than 1 percent of the population that pays for all of this campaigning,"
Still, record turnout in the state meant the voters had a lot to say about the election, too. As Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel put it, the 33.5% turnout, which smashed state predictions of 20%, was "absolutely massive for a spring election."
More massive yet was the over-50% turnout in Madison. This is what democracy looks like.
"Tuesday's turnout is unmistakable evidence of the impact the state's budget and labor wars are having on Wisconsin voters," Gilbert writes.
Around the state, about 600,000 more voters turned out than expected -- quite a few more than the 540,000 signatures needed to launch a recall of Governor Walker. Recall drives against Republican senators got a shot in the arm when the effort to recall Dan Kapanke of LaCrosse exceeded its goal, and campaigns against Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac and Alberta Darling of River Hills have also indicated they are close to their goals.
If there is one thing the Tuesday-into-Wednesday election shows it's that the battle is on in Wisconsin.
If you liked this article by Ruth Conniff, the political editor of The Progressive, check out her story "Wisconsin Leads the War on Public Schools."
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