Wisconsin’s Supreme Court Race Too Close To Call

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011 at 6:15 am

Wisconsin’s fight over union rights took center stage at the polls yesterday, primarily in the race for an open seat on the state Supreme Court. At this point, it looks as if voters split almost evenly over whether to re-elect a conservative-leaning justice or give the seat to a little-known opponent.

The race between incumbent Justice David Prosser and challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg is too close to call. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Prosser led Kloppenburg by fewer than 600 votes. Final, official results could vary and this means that a recount is likely.

The race reflected the divide in the state over Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s collective bargaining law, which would strip public workers of nearly all their union rights. The issue, which could ultimately be decided by the state Supreme Court, propelled the relatively unknown Kloppenburg into the spotlight and brought a lot of extra attention to the race.

Kloppenburg, an assistant state attorney general, began her campaign with very little fanfare and faced an uphill battle against Prosser, who has served on the court for 12 years. Prosser easily won a nonpartisan February primary with 55 percent of the vote, while Kloppenburg finished second out of four candidates with just 28 percent.

But opponents of Walker’s collective bargaining law have focused on this race as a possible way to overturn Walker’s law. They redefined the Supreme Court race as a referendum on Walker and all Republicans, working to leverage the anger over the measure against Prosser, a former GOP legislator. Kloppenburg’s campaign tried to show her as the best hope for stopping the measure.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported that Prosser told supporters at his election-night party that there was “little doubt” there would be a recount.

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