MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Wisconsin Supreme Court challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg conceded defeat on Tuesday to conservative incumbent Justice David Prosser, in a race that was widely seen as a referendum on Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s divisive legislation stripping most state workers of nearly all their collective bargaining rights.
Kloppenburg admitted defeat after a statewide recount reaffirmed Prosser’s victory over her in the April 5 election.
“David Prosser has won the election and I have congratulated him,” Kloppenburg said in a news conference in Madison. “I will not be requesting judicial review of the results of the recount.”
After initial election returns showed Kloppenburg with a narrow victory of about 200 votes, she declared herself the winner the day after the election. But the next day, Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus announced she had failed to report 14,000 votes. The new votes gave Prosser a 7,316-vote lead.
Kloppenburg picked up only 312 votes during the recount, which uncovered no widespread problems, meaning Prosser won by 7,004 votes, or just 0.46 percent of the votes cast.
Prosser’s campaign had said there was no basis for a challenge and it was time to move on. A Prosser spokesman said his campaign would comment following Kloppenburg’s news conference.
Conservative Walker supporters largely backed Prosser in the hopes he would be supportive of the bill eliminating most of public workers’ collective bargaining rights. Opponents of the proposal lined up behind Kloppenburg, hoping she would vote to overturn it if she won.
Prosser is generally seen as one of four conservative justices on the seven-member court, although both he and Kloppenburg insisted during the race for the officially nonpartisan position that they were impartial.
A Dane County circuit court judge last week voided the law, citing an open meetings law violation by the Legislature in the process of passing it. The Supreme Court was scheduled to hear arguments June 6 on whether it will accept the case.
Prosser currently sits on the court through the end of July. His next 10-year term begins in August.
Prosser has been on the court 12 years and is a former Republican speaker of the state Assembly. Kloppenburg, a little-known assistant attorney general, started the race as the heavy underdog.
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