State Supreme Court election likely to end in recount

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Chris Abele wins the race for Milwaukee County Executive. Photo by Emily Waller / Emily.Waller@Marquette.edu

The results of Tuesday’s Milwaukee County Executive race proved a man with no political background could be victorious over one with 17 years of state and local government experience.

Chris Abele, a 44-year-old philanthropist, defeated state Rep. Jeff Stone, (R-Greendale) for the office by a vote of 61 percent to 39 percent, according to unofficial results with all votes counted.

Around 10 p.m. Tuesday night, Stone conceded the race, which made the special election result official.

Abele takes over as county executive for the last year of Gov. Scott Walker’s term, following Walker’s election as governor last November. In his acceptance speech, Abele said he plans to run for a full four-year term next spring.

Set to take office no later than April 30, Abele said he plans to take every opportunity to work with Stone, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and others to improve the county. In his acceptance speech, he put a large emphasis on collaboration.

“It is time for a new approach,” he said. “It is time to stop working apart and to start working together.”

Abele also mentioned the need to enact a cultural change within the county government by means of creativity, rather than working by a status quo.

“The real key is changing the way we think about stuff … changing this notion that the only solution to everything is either cutting services or raising taxes,” he said.

Throughout his campaign, Abele vowed not to raise taxes and to restructure the county’s mental health programs. He also, however, hinted at necessary layoffs in order to balance the county’s budget.

On the losing end, Stone said Milwaukee County’s “brightest days are ahead” and promised to work with Abele to find solutions to its problems. He also alluded to the race’s “unusual environment” and how this spring’s voter turnout was higher than in previous years.

“The loss reflects the divide we have in Wisconsin right now,” he said in his concession speech. “There was a big voter turnout, which was a reflection of the unrest we have had in Madison over Gov. Walker’s union measure.”

The union measure Stone referred to was one that stripped public workers of most of their collective bargaining rights. Since the budget repair bill was introduced, Stone voted for it twice.

With the election over, Gov. Walker issued a statement congratulating Abele, and said he is glad the county executive-elect embraced his position of not raising property taxes.

STATE SUPREME COURT NAIL-BITER

Wisconsin’s State Supreme Court race was largely driven by outside interest groups and attack ads, and featured a higher-than-expected turnout. The result after Tuesday was that the election results were too close to call, and will likely lead to the first statewide vote recount in more than two decades.

As of Wednesday afternoon, unofficial results showed Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg with a 204-vote lead over incumbent Justice David Prosser, who had been leading most of Tuesday night. The current vote tally was the result of all of the state’s 3,630 precincts, according to an unofficial tally by the Associated Press’ election results and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Prosser and his campaign already said there is little doubt a recount will occur.

Brian Nemoir, Prosser’s campaign director, said their next step is to make sure “ballot integrity” is protected, meaning they will check with vote counters around the state to make sure none of the ballots were tampered with.

Once the official results are in, either candidate can request a recount. If the vote margin is less than 0.5 percent, the state does not charge anything to do the recount, however, if the margin is between 0.5 and 2 percent, the candidate must pay $5 per ward.

With current vote totals of Kloppenburg with 740,090 and Prosser with 739,886, it is almost certain the margin will be less than 0.5 percent.

Although neither of the candidates have released official statements regarding the election since last night, Mike Gousha, distinguished fellow in law and public policy, said this race can be viewed as a referendum on Gov. Scott Walker’s actions in Madison.

On WISN News, he said the race has been plagued by negative portrayals of the candidates, mostly by outside interest groups. He said those outside groups oftentimes were either for or against Walker’s budget repair bill.

“A Prosser loss is a blow to Walker, and most likely ends the court’s 4-3 partisan majority,” Gousha said.

Either way the election goes, the winner will begin his or her 10-year term on August 1.

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