Election night went into the morning as both sides waited for the results, but in the end the Democratic Party prevailed in each of the statewide elections. The only remaining question is whether the final results would fall within the margin necessary for a recount in the race for governor and attorney general.
The race for governor was a see-saw battle between the incumbent Gov. Scott Walker (R) and the challenger Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers. However, Milwaukee’s absentee ballots caused Evers to surge ahead a lead of 31,087 votes with 99 percent of the precincts counted statewide.
If Evers’ victory margin held up, the 1.15 percent would be outside of the one percent difference that would allow a recount. Just as the absentee ballots were being counted in Milwaukee, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch had suggested that a recount was likely and called for volunteers to help. It is unknown if Republicans will continue to desire a recount in the morning considering the margin of victory by Evers. Republicans, including Walker, have been very critical of Democratic requests for recounts in 2016 and in 2011.
To put the vote difference into perspective, the 2011 recount in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race only resulted in a swing of 300 votes or 0.02 percent of the total vote changed. Even the infamous recount in the U.S. Senate race that elected Democrat Al Franken in Minnesota was only a swing of 527 votes, not the thousands Walker would need to overcome.
The Republican loss was also greater than the number of ballots cast for the Libertarian Party candidate, 20,156 according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s unofficial total.
Also losing Wednesday night was Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel to the relatively unknown and inexperienced Democratic challenger Josh Kaul. Kaul, the son of former attorney general Peg Lautenschlager, won by over 20,000 votes thanks to the final surge in absentee ballots in Milwaukee. However, the margin of victory, 0.8 percent, was less than the recall threshold of one percent of the total vote if Schimel decides to go that route.
Meanwhile, state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield) failed in her challenge to incumbent Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) by losing 55 percent to 45 percent. The race was called almost as soon as polls closed in Wisconsin. Baldwin heavily outspent Vukmir in the general election after a contentious Republican primary. Aside from being a disappointment for Wisconsin Republicans who thought Baldwin was vulnerable because of her mishandling of a deadly scandal at the Tomah VA hospital, the loss by Vukmir also bucked a national trend of losses by Senate Democrats in states won be President Donald Trump in 2016.
Democrats swept the other statewide offices on the ballot as well. Secretary of State Doug La Follette defeated Republican Jay Schroeder 53 percent to 47 percent, while Democrat Sarah Godlewski defeated Republican Travis Hartwig 51 percent to 47 percent in the race for state treasurer.
In the Wisconsin races for the House of Representatives, Republicans resisted Democratic momentum and held onto the open 1st congressional district seat when Bryan Steil easily defeated the Democrat Randy “Iron Stache” Bryce, 55 percent to 42 percent. The seat is currently held by Speaker of the House Paul Ryan who announced his retirement earlier this year.
The only other House race really in question was the 6th congressional district where Dan Kohl, a Washington lobbyist and nephew of former Senator Herb Kohl, challenged conservative Republican Rep. Glenn Grothman. Grothman easily won 55.5 percent to 44.5 percent. In all other House races in Wisconsin the incumbents won without difficulty.
Republicans did hold onto both houses of the legislature, ensuring divided government for at least the next two years. Republicans actually retook the 1st Senate district in the rematch between Democrat Caleb Frostman and Republican André Jacque. Frostman defeated Jacque in a special election in June but the former Assemblyman won Tuesday, expanding Republican control in the Senate from 18-15 to 19-14.