The Wisconsin Supreme Court race is down to the wire, after the lead see-sawed back and forth all of Tuesday night and into the early hours of Wednesday, with challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg taking a very narrow lead over incumbent Justice David Prosser — for now, anyway.
With 3,627 precincts out of 3,630 reporting on the Associated Press’s spreadsheet, Kloppenburg has 739,574 votes to Prosser’s 739,350 — a lead of 224 votes, with the AP continuing to make adjustments and corrections that further swing the numbers around slightly. The remaining precincts come from Milwaukee County (from the suburban town of West Allis, the Milwuakee Journal Sentinel reports) and Jefferson County (carried by Prosser). At this juncture, the race remains simply too close to call.
And the campaigns appear to be gearing up for a recount. WisPolitics reported this morning:
Prosser campaign director Brian Nemoir says he’s still trying to chase down some wards.
“While we are cautiously optimistic, it’s safe to say that this campaign will transition from turning out votes to protecting the integrity and recounting the votes,” he said.
Normally, of course, a state Supreme Court election would not be national news. But in the wake of Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s legislation curtailing public employee unions, and the political protests that gripped the state and attracted national attention, the court race very quickly turned into a proxy political battle. Conservatives were supporting Prosser, a former Republican state Assembly Speaker in the 1990s, and liberals backed Kloppenburg, who many years ago interned for Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, who is in turn viewed as being in the court’s liberal wing.
Prosser should have been safe in all of this, as incumbent justices — especially conservative ones, backed by the state’s business establishment — almost always win re-election. Even two weeks ago, a prominent Democrat in Wisconsin told TPM in an off-the-record conversation (now cleared for publication) that they believed Kloppenburg didn’t stand a chance, and Prosser should win by double digits. But in the state’s hyper-polarized environment, this race quickly became a hot contest.