Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser held a press conference at the state Capitol on Monday, in which he declared victory in his reelection race — and at which his campaign advisers said they would object to any recount that might be requested by Prosser’s opponent, Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg.
During the press conference, Prosser touted his narrow win — by a margin of 7,316 votes, or 0.488% out of almost 1.5 million — as a vote of a confidence in him by the voters, against a late campaign by opponents of Gov. Scott Walker to turn the election into a referendum on Walker’s policies.
“Voters want candidates for the Supreme Court to make an honest case for themselves, a positive case, based on experience, performance, judicial philosophy and independence,” said Prosser. “This was a decisive election about judicial independence. The people realized that judges should be much more than partisan politicians who wear black robes. Judges should be impartial in theory and in fact. They should faithfully apply the law without fear, and without favor.”
Also during his remarks, Prosser thanked all his supporters, and all the voters he met who are committed to improving the state, “and to the advancement of conservative values as the way to address and ameliorate our many problems.”
Prosser left the Q&A to spokesman Brian Schimming and attorney Jim Troupis. “There is a strong enough win here, and for them to ask for a recount in any form will be enormously costly to the voters of this state,” said Schimming. “There’s no evidence there to suggest that a recount is gonna change the outcome.”
And for his part, Troupis said that the campaign was “Obviously prepared to address a number of legal issues,” and would take any steps to prevent a “frivolous” recount from going forward.
Reporters asked multiple times what grounds the Prosser campaign would use to object to a recount, given that state law entitles a candidate losing by less than 0.5% to request one at state and local expense. When a reporter bluntly asked Troupis whether he would say what grounds would be listed in an objection to a recount, compared to what is in state law, Troupis simply responded: “No.”
Schimming spoke further on the matter of the vote-counting problems in Waukesha County. “Let me say this about Waukesha County: Waukesha County will now go down as the most canvassed election total in state history,” said Schimming. “You had the election night number that was initially reported. You had the canvass, a day, day and a half later, that was the actual official canvass where the omission from the city of Brookfield was found. You had the Kloppenburg campaign down there Friday through Saturday, looking at voter tapes, and now you have the Government Accountability Board looking over those totals as well, with no indication that the numbers will change.”
Schimming added: “So do we expect that there ought to be a recount based on Waukesha County? Not at all.”
Early on, Prosser was widely expected to easily win re-election, given the advantages of incumbency in terms of fundraising, name recognition, and the organizational backing of the state business establishment and Republican Party in the nominally non-partisan race. However, the widespread protests against Gov. Scott Walker’s anti-public employee union legislation quickly turned this into a proxy political battle, and unions brought a late but very energetic effort on Kloppenburg’s behalf.
Wednesday, April 6, the day after the election, Kloppenburg declared victory on the basis of Associated Press figures showing 100% of precincts reported, with Kloppenburg enjoying the very narrow lead of 204 votes out of nearly 1.5 million. Then that Thursday, as counties were conducting the official canvass to check for errors in their election night spreadsheets that were reported to the media, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus (R) announced the discovery of un-tabulated votes in the city of Brookfield — giving Prosser a net gain of over 7,000 — saying that her own error had resulted in them not being properly imported and saved into the county’s database.
“I’m thankful that this error was caught early in the process and during the canvass,” Nickolaus said at the press conference last week.
Since then, Democrats have been crying foul about the race — and also raising doubts about past election results in the county, as well. For her part, Nickolaus has responded to the criticism and said she will not resign: “I will serve the remainder of my term. I understand why people are upset and I am taking this matter seriously. Again, I am sorry for my mistake.”
(Special thanks to the ABC affiliate in Madison, for streaming the press conference.)
This post has been edited from the original.
Late Update: Kloppenburg campaign manager Melissa Mulliken has responded, WisPolitics reports:
“We haven’t made a decision on whether to request a recount and are carefully weighing the options,” Mulliken said. “State law clearly contemplates a recount if the margin in an election is within .5 percent and this race falls within that.