MILWAUKEE (CN) – A recount showed that incumbent Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser defeated challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg by 7,004 votes, making it likely that the state’s high court will uphold the controversial budget bill that guts union rights of public employees.
Although the race for the state Supreme Court state was nominally nonpartisan, Prosser was the Republican choice and Kloppenburg, an assistant attorney general, was the Democrats’.
Prosser had an apparently insurmountable lead in early polls, until the Legislature’s union-busting budget bill polarized the state. Kloppenburg then appeared to eke out a victory by the thinnest of margins, until the clerk of heavily Republican Waukesha County announced late on election night that she had forgotten to record 14,000 votes – which threw the election to Prosser.
The Government Accountability Board, which certified the recount on Monday, is also investigating the actions of Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus, a Republican.
In its official statement on Monday, the Board said that the initial results of the April 5 election showed Prosser with 752,323 votes and. Kloppenburg with 745,007 – a margin of 7,316 votes or 0.49%. In the recount, Prosser gained 371 votes and Kloppenburg gained 683, making the final margin 7,004 votes or 0.46%.
Prosser thus will remain a member of the court’s 4-3 Republican majority, which will decide the fate of the state’s anti-union law, which is set for oral arguments in early June.
Prosser publicly promised in 2010 “to act as ‘complement’ to [Gov. Scott] Walker,” who made the union-busting law a centerpiece of his administration. The Legislature passed it as a so-called Budget Repair Bill in a special session, without a quorum, and Walked then published it in defiance of a judge’s order. The judge then re-issued her injunction.
The legal squabbling and the long recount have intensified the state’s political bloodbath, and energized Democrats and public workers.
It also has energized Republicans in statehouses across the nation, who have enacted similar legislation, but without the brouhaha that has attended the attack on public unions in Wisconsin.