Evers Defeats Incumbent Gov. Scott Walker In Closest Governor's Race Since 1950s
(WPR)---State schools superintendent Tony Evers has made history as the first Democrat to successfully win an election against GOP Gov. Scott Walker, a two-term governor and one-time rising star in the national Republican Party.
Evers defeated Walker by a razor thin margin with 49.55 percent of the vote compared to Walker's 48.47, when the race was called. Heading into Election Day, the race was considered a dead heat, and it lived up to those expectations as vote tallying stretched into the wee hours of Wednesday morning.
Mandela Barnes, Evers' running mate, was elected lieutenant governor, defeating Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.
"'I feel confident saying to you, 'My name is Tony Evers and I'm going to be the next governor of the state of Wisconsin,'" Evers told supporters at a Madison rally at The Orpheum Theater on Wednesday morning.
Discussion of a possible gubernatorial recount was raised as tallying neared its end, but recently changed state law, signed by Walker, restricts recounts to elections that are decided by less than 1 percent of the vote.
By 2 a.m. Wednesday morning, Walker had yet to concede. In a statement, Walker advisor Brian Reisinger said, "We need the official canvass and for military ballots to be counted before any decision can be made."
He added, "thousands of ballots were damaged and had to be recreated. Until there is a comparison of the original ballots to the recreated ballots, there is no way to judge their validity."
Evers, who won a crowded Democratic primary in August, made his campaign primarily about education, health care and transportation funding. He has promised to increase state spending on schools, accept a federal expansion of Medicaid money and find a bipartisan solution to Wisconsin’s longtime road funding debate. He has also promised to cut income taxes by 10 percent for individuals making $100,000 or less and for families who earn $150,000 or less.
Evers, 66, was first elected state schools superintendent in 2009. During his campaign, he emphasized his laid back personality, his experience living all across Wisconsin and his electability as someone who previously won statewide office three times.
Wisconsin's last Democratic governor, Jim Doyle, won three terms as state Attorney General before he made the jump.
"I can promise you this, I'll be focused on solving problems, not picking political fights," Evers told an ecstatic election night crowd, adding, "The real work starts tomorrow. It's time for a change. The voters of Wisconsin spoke and they agreed. A change is coming, Wisconsin."