Last night, shortly after midnight, Democratic Governor Tony Evers took the stage at the Orpheum Theater in downtown Madison to deliver his victory speech. It was just moments after he’d received a concession call from Republican challenger Tim Michels.
As soon as polls closed at 8pm last night, Evers took the lead, which he never lost. He ultimately beat Michels by around 90,000 votes, more than 50,000 more votes than when he beat former Republican Governor Scott Walker for the seat in 2018.
While Michels came within one percentage point around 11 last night, Evers quickly pulled ahead, and was up 60,000 votes by midnight. By 12:15, Michels had taken the stage to address attendees at his election party at the Italian Community Center in Milwaukee.
“Thanks for all the hard work that’s happened over the last 2 to 3 months, I couldn’t be more proud of people. Unfortunately, the math just doesn’t add up. I just called the Governor Evers and conceded. I wish the Evers family well,” said Michels.
While the crowd in Milwaukee voiced their disapproval of the results, the mood in Madison was joyous. As Sister Sledge blared on the PA, Evers thanked his supporters — and reminded them of his priorities.
“You showed up for reproductive rights, for the freedom to make your own healthcare decisions without asking me or any other elected official. You showed up for working families who are worried about the economy and rising costs… You showed up for educators and for our public schools, because what’s best for the kids is best for our state. You showed up for LGBTQ folks, and trans kids, who want to be safe and who they are.”
“You showed up for conservation and clean energy, to take climate change seriously and for a future that doesn’t treat protecting our environment and good paying jobs as mutually exclusive, because they’re not. Remember those Scott-holes four years ago? You showed up for fixing the damn roads. Expanding access to high speed internet, continuing to invest in infrastructure, and most importantly you showed up because you saw our democracy on the brink of extinction, and you decided to do a damn thing about it.”
Meanwhile, Wisconsin went to bed last night not knowing the fate of Wisconsin’s US Senate seat. Around 1AM, both Republican Ron Johnson and Democrat Mandela Barnes ended their respective parties, both saying the race was too close to call. While Johnson had the lead, Milwaukee County Supervisor Felesia Martin encouraged the crowd to not give up hope.
“No matter what anyone says, or wants to predict, we’re going to make every single vote count, because you all put too many hours in knocking on doors, on phones, on postcards, rocking it out every day. So let’s all go home, get some sleep, and let democracy work. It’s only by counting every voice, making sure that every single vote that was cast is counted. We will not go down in history saying that Wisconsin suppressed votes in this all important election,” Martins says.
At around 11 this morning, with a lead of over 25,000 votes, the race was called by the media for Ron Johnson — shortly after Johnson lambasted media outlets for not being quick enough to call the race for him.
Speaking this afternoon at the Sherman Phoenix marketplace in Milwaukee, where he’d started his campaign, Barnes conceded the race — and urged his supporters to keep fighting for change.
When asked today why he lost, and his Democratic ally won in Wisconsin, Barnes pointed to the vicious political advertising this political cycle, saying “Ron Johnson’s campaign sought to divide Wisconsinites by race, and to provoke fear.”
Statewide offices were on the ballot last night, with an unusual and surprising split between parties. The GOP picked up a win in State Treasurer, with Republican Josh Leiber beating out Democrat Aaron Richardson — currently mayor of Fitchburg — by a narrow margin.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s Secretary of State race is proving to be the tightest statewide race in Wisconsin.
The incumbent Democrat, Doug LaFollette, has served in the office consecutively since 1982. He’s facing a challenge from Republican Amy Loudenbeck, who has advocated to restore some decision-making power over election administration to the office.
With LaFollette leading by a margin of approximately 7,000 votes this afternoon, the race is still too close to call. In a statement this afternoon, LaFollette urged people to “trust the process” as results roll in, and as a possible recount looms.
Not to be forgotten is the race for state Attorney General, where incumbent Democrat Josh Kaul has fended off a challenge from Republican challenger Eric Toney by roughly 34,000 votes, who conceded early this morning.
At a mid-morning press conference, Kaul said public safety would continue to be his number one priority as Wisconsin’s top prosecutor— along with issues like finding solutions to gun violence and grappling with Wisconsin’s 19th century abortion ban.
“The work that our public servants do is important, and makes a difference in communities across the state day in and day out,” Kaul says.
Toney, currently the District Attorney of Fond du Lac County, promised during his campaign to actively enforce the ban. Kaul, meanwhile, has filed a lawsuit against the state legislature saying the ban is unenforceable, a case that is lingering in the courts.
Democrats had a lucrative night in Dane County, with Tony Evers gaining more votes in the county than his first time around in 2018. 302,459 voters cast a ballot in Dane County, and the clerk’s office is reporting that’s just over 80% turnout of all registered voters.
While several Democratic state lawmakers won reelection in Dane County, such as Senators Mark Spreitzer of District 15 and Dianne Hesselbein of District 27, the county also has a few new faces.
In the Assembly’s 46th seat, Democratic candidate and Dane County Supervisor Melissa Ratcliff beat fellow county supervisor and Republican candidate Andrew McKinney by over 30 points.
Ratcliff attended Tony Evers election party last night, where she says abortion access is one of her biggest priorities going forward.
“This was the number one issue that I heard (knocking on) doors, and one of the issues I ran on. I have a daughter, and I cannot believe that I had more rights than she has. It’s important for us to continue to push back on this ban on abortions. The stories that I heard at doors were very personal on the issue, and how it affects people in different ways,” Ratcliff says.
Ratcliff was not the only Dane County Supervisor to pick up an Assembly seat. Democratic candidate Alex Jours, who picked up the state’s 79th Assembly seat, is also a current supervisor.
Mike Bare, who also ran as a Democrat, was the final supervisor to pick up an Assembly seat, representing District 80.
The final candidate up for election here in Dane County was current Dane County Sheriff Kalvin Barrett, who easily won his reelection last night, beating Republican candidate Anthony Hamilton by over 50 points.
The Democratic sheriff was also at Tony Evers election party last night, where he was grateful to Dane County voters.
“In everything that we do moving forward, I know that we’ve had a very successful 18 months that I’ve been sheriff here, and I know that we have very educated and intelligent voters here in Dane County who will be able to do the best research in deciding the best candidate for this position, as well as other positions across the state. I trust that they will make the right decision,” Barrett says.
Voters across the state also saw local referendums on the ballot. Dane county had three advisory referenda — While the questions are not binding, they are used to show the will of the people in a specific county.
Two of the questions concerned the use of marijuana, one asking if it should be legalized and taxed, and another asking if previous convictions for the drug should be expunged. Both questions passed by over 80%.
The final question regarded Wisconsin’s 19th-century abortion ban, asking whether or not it should be repealed. Repealing the abortion ban had even more support than legalizing marijuana, with 85% of Dane County voters calling for it to be overturned.
Municipal and county clerks work to certify the election in coming weeks. Folks who voted via provisional ballot have until 4pm on Friday to return to their clerk’s office with the necessary documentation, or their vote will not be counted.