Eight Weeks Later, Kloppenburg Concedes to Prosser in Wisconsin Supreme Court Race

[Madison, Wisc…] Eight weeks after the Wisconsin Supreme Court election, Joanne Kloppenburg finally conceded defeat in her bid to unseat Justice David Prosser.

“David Prosser has won this election and I have congratulated him,” Kloppenburg said Tuesday in a press conference a block from the Capitol.

However, in her prepared remarks, Kloppenburg was adamant that “[T]housands of votes were not counted, were counted incorrectly, or have been called into question.”

Kloppenburg’s concession was as atypical as the election process itself.

“The recount was always about much more than the small difference in votes between the two candidates,” Kloppenburg said. “Widespread irregularities, unintentional as they may be, around the state, along with the cascade of irregularities in Waukesha, make it clear that we must do more to ensure the electoral process in Wisconsin is beyond reproach.”

Her concession brings a resolution to the high court election, which, despite the 7,000 plus vote margin, has been in limbo for nearly two months.

Kathy Nickolaus, the Clerk in the conservative stronghold of Waukesha County, initially failed to report all of the City of Brookfield’s 14,000 votes in her unofficial April 5 election night totals she released to the media. She announced the error a few days later, at the conclusion of the official canvass in Waukesha County.

With that revelation, what had been reported as a 204-vote margin for Kloppenburg (out of 1.5 million votes cast) became a 7,316-vote victory for Prosser.

Two weeks later, from a park on Madison’s North side, a defiant Joanne Kloppenburg announced that she was requesting a statewide recount in the Supreme Court race.

Her supporters in the labor community immediately applauded that decision.

“Too many questions hang over this election, and we appreciate JoAnne Kloppenburg’s diligence in standing up for the integrity of our elections,” Marty Beil said at the time.

Beil is the head of the state employees’ chapter of AFSCME.

For the next several weeks a tedious recount took place in all of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, where many ballots were counted by hand. The Kloppenburg campaign issued several challenges to decisions made during the recount in Waukesha County, prompting the recount there to extend well beyond the initial deadline set by the Government Accountability Board (GAB).

Waukesha County finished their recount on May 20.
Last week the GAB certified David Prosser was the victor, by a 7,004 vote margin.

Had Kloppenburg requested a judicial review of the certified election results, the legal drama would have been high stakes. Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson, a Kloppenburg ally, would have appointed a Dane County judge to hear the case. It would have been likely that Justice Prosser would have seen his August swearing in postponed indefinitely while the challenge continued.

Meanwhile, as the State Supreme Court readies to hear arguments surrounding a pending Dane County Circuit Court ruling that has left Wisconsin’s new labor law voided, a Prosser vacancy would have created a 3-3 liberal-to-conservative split on the high court.

Such a deadlock could have left the lower court’s ruling on the issue stand.

With Kloppenburg’s concession, however, that scenario has been averted.

“I will not be requesting judicial review of the results.” Kloppenburg said Tuesday.

While taxpayers picked up the yet-to-be-calculated costs of the statewide recount, Kloppenburg would have had to finance any subsequent court challenge.

As Kloppenburg finished her speech, she clearly kept one foot in the political arena, fueling speculation of a potential future candidacy for public office.

“The work of this campaign may be ended, but our commitment to doing our part to make Wisconsin’s future—and our Courts—stronger and better isn’t done,” she said. “Together, we have more to do.”

Prosser said Tuesday that it was time for him to get back to work.

His new 10-year term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court begins August 1.

MacIver News Service’s Bill Osmulski has more in this video report: