The scene couldn't be any different from the Wisconsin presidential primary on February 22. Even though it fell in the midst of what was arguably the worst month of the snowiest winter in Madison's history, interest and turnout in the election was tremendous, owing largely to an intense focus on the showdown between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination.
What do we get for the spring general election this April Fool's Day? Much less interest, despite a significant race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court along with the biannual ballot for supervisors here in Dane County.
That's hardly surprising, though. The race between incumbent Louis Butler and challenger Michael Gableman for a seat on the state supreme court is utterly toxic, owing to a landfill's worth of odious TV ads against the former pushed by the likes of WMC and a late but repellent round of responses from WEAC against the latter, both likely to succeed in their goal of lowering turnout.
Then there's the Dane County Board of Supervisors, a 37-member body which is only seeing 17 contested races this spring. And don't forget the Madison school board, where both candidates are running unchallenged.
Hardly discussed is the statewide constitutional referendum against the governor's line-item veto, rebranded by opponents as the "Frankenstein veto" and only the latest in a decades-long series of actions against the power, the last being an earlier amendment against its variant "Vanna White veto" back in 1990.
If ever there was a recipe for a low key election, this was it.
Lucky for those persons actually voting, then, as they'll have a larger voice in making significant decisions about the future of Wisconsin. Live-blogging of the 2008 spring general election follows.
WisPolitics, WTMJ, and other media outlets have called the Wisconsin Supreme Court race for Michael Gableman. With 93% of the votes in, the challenger is leading incumbent Louis Butler by two points and a margin of more than 20,000 votes.
The vote totals are looking better for Michael Gableman and bleaker for Louis Butler as the night wears on, with the former increasing his lead to a margin of nearly 20,000 votes with 92% of the statewide vote unofficially counted. WisPolitics reports that the Butler campaign is still watching the numbers, though.
Michael Gableman continues to hold his lead over Louis Butler in the Supreme Court race, now in front of the incumbent by some 12,000 votes with more than 85% of the statewide results reported. A WisPolitics update from the Butler party quotes the candidate as saying the race is a "nailbiter."
WisPolitics reports that the vote totals in the Supreme Court race does not include returns from much of Waukesha County, which is likely to provide a rich source of votes for the challenger. "Michael Gableman's supporters are feeling more and more confident as the returns come in," notes J.R. Ross, "while Butler's backers aren't seeing many positives in the latest numbers."
Though the state Supreme Court race between Butler and Gableman remains divided by a mere two point lead for the latter, the vote margin continues to expand as the total percentage of votes reported increases. With 80% of the ballots now in, Gableman's lead has increased to more than 13,000 votes.
Michael Gableman continues to hold a two point lead over Louis Butler in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race with more than three-quarters of the statewide results reporting; this now makes for a margin of about 10,000 votes.
The complete results for all races in the county can be found in the unofficial canvass provided by the Dane County Clerk's Office.
With two-thirds of the statewide vote not in, the race between Louis Butler and Michael Gableman for the Wisconsin Supreme Court remains at a dead heat, with the latter holding a narrow margin of some 3,000 votes out of more than 600,000 cast so far. Looks like there's going to be a long wait tonight.
"It looks pretty good," says victorious candidate and incumbent Sup. Brett Hulsey about the nights results for progressives and liberals in Dane County politics. "Obviously Dianne Hesselbein's win over Ruth Ann Schoer was big," he notes, "and were sorry to lose Rich Pertzborn, but it looks like we're up by one or two seats."
Here's the list of winning Dane County Board supervisors:
- District 1 -- Scott McDonell
- District 4 -- Brett Hulsey
- District 5 -- Wyndham Manning
- District 6 -- John Hendrick
- District 7 -- Matt Veldran
- District 9 -- Dianne H. Hesselbein
- District 11 -- Al Matano
- District 12 -- Paul Rusk
- District 14 -- Melanie Hampton
- District 15 -- Ronn Ferrell
- District 18 -- Dorothy Wheeler
- District 26 -- Mark Opitz
- District 28 -- Kurt Schlicht
- District 30 -- Patrick Downing
- District 33 -- Jack Martz
- District 34 -- Patrick Miles
- District 36 -- Cynda K. Solberg
In all, a decent night for progressives, and a great night for incumbents.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court race remains tight with 60% of the results in, with Gableman maintaining his two point lead over Butler, a difference that now consists of about 9,000 votes. This race wasn't close at all in Dane County, though, with Butler getting some 30,000 more votes than Gableman, a difference necessary for him to remain competitive at the state level.
The final Dane County Board race of the night to be decided is that in District 14 on the southwest side of Madison. Though both candidates for this open seat were endorsed by Kathleen Falk, the end results weren't close. Melanie Hampton defeats Vic Bankston by 36 points.
Finally, though, there's an upset, though one that's not really surprising. Challenger Dianne Hesselbein defeats incumbent Ruth Ann Schoer by 11 points in District 9, which covers the part of the west side of Madison as well as Middleton. Like the close race in Fitchburg, these results are a sign that Madison's adjacent suburbs are trending progressive.
Make that 11. Incumbent Al Matano likewise wins, defeating challenger Steve Ingham by 18 points in District 11, which also covers the near west side of Madison.
Brett Hulsey is the tenth incumbent Dane County supervisor of the night to hold onto his seat, and is also an expected winner. He defeats challenger Greg Hull by 42 points in District 4, which covers the near west side of Madison.
As expected, Dane County Board Chair Scott McDonell wins big in District 1, defeating challenger J.P. O'Heyn by 66 points. Like other UW student-heavy districts, turnout was comparatively light, though vote totals nearly doubled those in the anemic District 5.
With half of the statewide vote now in, Michael Gableman continues to hold a narrow lead over Louis Butler in the race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The former is leading by two points, which consists of about 7,000 votes at this point. This one might go quite late into the night before the final outcome is determined.
Incumbent Dorothy Wheeler holds on to the District 18 seat on the board, which covers the north side of Madison. She roundly defeated challenger Sal Al-Ashkar by 26 points.
Ronn Ferrell defeats Lisa Subeck by eight points for the District 15 seat on the Dane County Board, which covers portions of the far west and southwest sides of Madison.
Here's a seventh incumbent on the Dane County Board to hold onto their seat tonight. Sup. Paul Rusk defeats challenger Ted Krez by a walloping 50 points in District 12, which covers Maple Bluff and a chunk of the east side of Madison.
The complete vote totals in the unofficial canvass are now in for the Dane County Board District 5 race. Wyndham Manning defeats Conor O'Hagan by 34 points. The total number of votes for both candidates and write-ins, though, is a mere 460, par for the course in this student-heavy district but significantly less than others around the city.
Matt Veldran, the incumbent sup. in the District 7 seat on the Dane County Board, has defeated challenger Dave Glomp by nearly 12 points. This seat was a pick-up by the progressive and liberal faction of the board two years ago when Veldran defeated David Blaska, and is a sign that the political makeup of the body is unlikely to swing back to the right.
There may be a race tonight. With more than a third of the statewide vote in, both Butler and Gableman are now tied at 50% in the Supreme Court race, with the latter holding on to a lead of less than 3,000 votes. This could be a close one.
As the statewide numbers in the Supreme Court race continue to fluctuate, the massive lead within Dane County held by Butler remains at nearly 40 points, and is likely to widen as more wards from the City of Madison report their results. In fact, Gableman has only won a handful of municipalities, namely the towns of Dane, Vienna, York, and a rump ward consisting of a mere four voters in Edgerton, all of which are on the periphery of the county.
The returns in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race are starting to swing in the other direction. With more than a quarter of the returns in, Gableman leads Butler by only 4 points, this margin significantly slimmer than earlier in the evening. This is likely due to the increasing number of votes reported by the larger cities in the state, with their more liberal voters going for the incumbent.
As expected, incumbent Dane County Sup. John Hendrick defeats challenger Mark Schmitt by a margin of 84% to 16%.
WisPolitics has projected the passage of the line-item veto referendum on the ballot. Though less than 20% of the votes are in, the yes votes continue to lead by nearly 50 points.
With more than 15% of statewide votes reporting, Gableman is holding his 12 point lead over Butler in the state Supreme Court race, a pattern that looks to be holding.
The narrowest margin of victory for the evening may be that won by incumbent Dane County Sup. Jack Martz, who defeats challenger Nancy Hylbert by a mere 18 votes out of the nearly 2196 cast in District 33, which covers Fitchburg. This win by Martz marks the fourth incumbent hold of the election so far, but is also a show of strength for progressives in this near-win by Hylbert in the suburban district.
Mark Opitz is the third incumbent on the Dane County Board to hold onto his seat tonight, clobbering challenger Adrian Augustine by more than 40 points in District 26 in Middleton.
Kurt Schlicht defeats Susan Beil by more than 20 points for the open District 28 seat on the Dane County Board being vacated by Vern Wendt.
Cynda K. Solberg defeats incumbent Dane County Sup. Richard Pertzborn for the District 36 seat by more than 20 points. This district covers Stoughton and Cottage Grove.
Incumbent Dane County Sup. Patrick Downing will defeat challenger John Brixy in District 30 by some 15 points. He is the second incumbent of the evening to retain his seat.
With 10% of the statewide vote in, Gableman continues to lead Butler by a dozen points in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race, a margin at this point consists of some 8,000 votes.
The line-item veto referendum vote totals in Dane County mirror the statewide numbers, with those supporting a constitutional amendment doing away with this particular power of the governor's pen winning by nearly a margin of four to one.
Gableman continues to lead Butler by a dozen points as the statewide returns build one percentage point at a time. The line-item veto referendum, meanwhile, is currently being supported by a whopping 70% of voters so far.
With 3% of the statewide vote in, Gableman is now leading Butler in the state Supreme Court race by some dozen points, though the incumbent continues to clean up by about 20 in Dane County.
Incumbent Dane County Sup. Patrick Miles has roundly defeated challenger Gordon Kensgaard in District 34, which covers McFarland and the Town of Dunn.
The UW campus blogger who goes by the handle of "The Critical Badger" has unofficial canvass from the County Clerk's office. Butler is up on Gableman by nearly 20 points, so far, winning in the towns of Berry, Black Earth, and Cross Plains, as well as in the villages of Black Earth and Oregon.
These figures differ from the 2007 general election state supreme court race between Annette Ziegler and Linda Clifford, with the former (and ultimate victor) holding her own in the early returns.
The polls are now officially closed.
"I think progressives and liberals are going to pick up at least two seats, and hopefully more," says Dane County Sup. Brett Hulsey from an election night party at JT Whitney's. "I think this is an indication we're heading the right way in Dane County."
Which seats does Hulsey think will turn? "Obviously we picked up the open seat in Monona with Robin Schmidt," he says. The west side supervisor also thinks that Dianne Hesselbein may defeat incumbent Ruth Ann Schoer, and Lisa Subeck may defeat Ronn Ferrell.
The complete list of candidates for the Dane County Board is available here.
According to a report from WisPolitics, turnout looks to be lower in Madison than in several other cities around the state, including Wausau and La Crosse. This may bode poorly for Louis Butler, a candidate who will need to rack up votes in Milwaukee and Dane counties in order to retain his seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. However, they also report that Butler is trying to boost votes among UW-Madison students, though anecdotal evidence so far shows that turnout is low on campus, as usual.
Polling places close in 20 minutes, at which point a few scattered election night parties will get rolling in Madison.
Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and everybody's favorite choice for her successor, County Board Sup. Scott McDonell, are holding the latter's victory party at the Main Street Depot in the Bassett neighborhood downtown. The host is a progressive PAC named Citizens for Dane County's Future.
A group of county board candidates from the west side of town are meeting at JT Whitney's, meanwhile, including incumbent sups. Brett Hulsey, Matt Veldran, and Carousel Bayrd, along with hopeful candidates Melanie Hampton and Lisa Subeck. "These county board races are about moving Dane County forward to make us safer, reduce traffic congestion with more travel choices, and protect our air, water and land," declares Hulsey.
Though today's election is fairly low key in Madison and around Dane County, there are significant races elsewhere in the state, particularly in the Milwaukee area. There are elections for Milwaukee County Executive, mayor, and city attorney today, as well as mayoral races in Kenosha, Wausau, Wauwatosa, West Allis, and West Bend. Also notable is a referendum in Marshfield to ban smoking in public places in the central Wisconsin city.
WisPolitics is providing results for these races as well as that for the state supreme court seat and the veto referendum.
The Dane County Clerk's office reports that turnout was at 12% at 4 p.m. this afternoon, their latest figure for the election.
A heavily-trafficked UW-Madison campus-oriented blog is between Wyndham Manning and Conor O'Hagan for the District 5 seat on the Dane County Board that's being vacated by Ashok Kumar. He has been tracking ballot numbers through the day at campus polling locations, including Memorial Library. Turnout there has been low, as expected. There is also ongoing speculation about the chances of victory for both candidates, with commentary on their GOTV efforts at dorms and cafeterias through the day.
More Madison residents are sharing their ballot numbers and other turnout anecdotes in a discussion on TDPF. The general numbers? Much lower than in February, though numbers started to pick up in the evening with voters casting their ballots after work.
Turnout was comparatively low at my polling place in downtown Madison. I was voter #52 at MATC early this afternoon, a number barely half of that in the primary, when I voted in the mid-morning. There were a few people turning out over the lunch hour, though, including Fred Mohs, the downtown resident and property owner recently infamous for restricting First United Methodist Church parishioners from using his Manchester Place parking garage on Sundays due to its operation of an emergency homeless overflow shelter. Welcome to Ward 41!