The race for the Democratic nomination was at times heated, but Hulsey congratulated his opponents for running a 'spirited' campaign.
What John Imes had hoped would be a victory party turned into an early evening. Shortly after 10 p.m., most of his supporters were gone from the Sundance Bar while Imes cleaned up, collecting signs that read, "John Imes for Assembly." Two of his children ran around giggling.
"It sounds like it was an inside race. We were hoping we could attract some of the outsiders into voting," he said. "This is the most important race for the 77th in 20 years. We just couldn't raise the resources."
Dane County Supv. Brett Hulsey -- who had some of the biggest endorsements, including those of Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and County Executive Kathleen Falk -- beat Imes and three other challengers, Fred Wade, Dianne Hesselbein and Doug Zwank. That puts Hulsey into premium position to replace Spencer Black, who is retiring after 26 years, as the Assembly rep for this west-side Madison district.
Early unofficial results had Hulsey winning with 44%. Hesselbein had 30%, Wade 17%, Imes 5% and Zwank 3%.
"Brett worked really hard and he had a leg up from the beginning," Imes said. "I think he had everything going for him."
Earlier in the evening, Hulsey declared victory a couple of miles away at the Vintage Brewing Co., thanking his friends and family, but urging, "The next election is seven weeks away. We're going to need all your help."
Though the race is solidly Democratic, Hulsey is facing a serious challenge from Green Party candidate Ben Manski.
The race for the Democratic nomination was at times heated, but Hulsey congratulated his opponents for running a "spirited" campaign, adding, "We stayed positive until the end. That was not always easy."
In the last week of the campaign, Hesselbein ran ads attacking Hulsey for working for Alliant Energy on a coal plant in Cassville. But on Tuesday night, Hesselbein congratulated her opponent, adding "I'm just glad the voters in the 77th had five good candidates to choose from."
At the Annex on Regent Street, Manski held his own party, which doubled as a fund-raiser. He'll face Hulsey in the November general election, along with Republican David Redick and Constitution Party candidate David Olson.
Manski drew criticism from Madison Common Council Ald. Mark Clear, who supports Hulsey, for holding his party outside the district.
Manski defends his decision: "It's one block away. And we're making a huge effort to turn out the student vote." He says there are not many venues accessible to students in the district.
Already, Manski says his candidacy has had "a gravitational pull" on the Democrat's campaigns. "They've been trying to position themselves as progressives and liberals."
Clear, at Hulsey's victory party, said this of Manski: "We're certainly not going to take him for granted. He has effective communications, he's well known in the community. I'm sure he'll work hard too."