(CN) - Democratic candidate Tony Evers narrowly defeated incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin’s gubernatorial race, with the Associated Press calling the election for Evers at around 1:20 a.m. CST Wednesday morning based on unofficial returns that showed Evers with 50 percent of the vote and Walker with 48 percent.
The final results took until early Wednesday morning in part because of 45,000 uncounted absentee ballots coming in to be counted late Tuesday night from Milwaukee County, an area of the state Evers was expected to win.
The incredibly tight race had attracted national attention building up to Tuesday, with President Donald Trump stumping in Mosinee for Walker and former President Barack Obama supporting Evers in Milwaukee in the final stretch before Election Day.
Walker became famous with conservatives and reviled among liberals after first being elected governor in 2010, in large part for his Act 10 legislation that, among other measures, severely tightened the collective bargaining powers of public sector unions.
The legislation sparked large protests in and around the capitol in Madison in early 2011, giving Walker a national profile before he went on to win a recall election against Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in 2012 and reelection in 2014.
Evers ran on platforms of public education, infrastructure focus on roads and transportation and strengthened public health care, whereas Walker ran on buttressing Wisconsin’s economy, cutting taxes and protecting Second Amendment rights.
Health care emerged as the marquee issue for Wisconsin voters in recent polls, where the two candidates were a study in contrast.
This was particularly true regarding the Affordable Care Act. Evers branded himself as a supporter of the law, while Walker cleared Wisconsin to join a lawsuit with other states seeking to repeal the legislation this year.
Both candidates were hampered by negative headlines in the days leading up to the election.
Walker had to throw cold water on a fourth former cabinet member to come forward and publicly criticize him, while Evers had to deal with a revelation that portions of a budget proposal he submitted had passages plagiarized from other sources without giving credit.
As the race concluded, there were intimations that a recount could be in the works if the gap between the candidates stayed in such a dead heat.
According to a state law signed by Walker in 2017, if the result of an election is within 1 percent, the loser can demand a recount. A recount is automatic if the margin is within 0.25 percent.
However, if the current margin holds after the official canvass, it would be too large for such a recount.Follow @@cnsjkelly
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