Incumbent Democrat edges out victory in Wisconsin governor’s race

John Hugh DeMastri, DCNF

Incumbent Democrat Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin is projected to hold onto his seat, fending off Republican challenger Tim Michels, according to both NBC and Reuters.

Evers secured 50.9% of the vote, compared to Michels’ 48%, with 88% reporting, according to multiple forecasters. The victory gives Evers his second term as Wisconsin’s governor, following a four year term where he often sparred with the GOP-controlled state legislature, according to Fox 6 Milwaukee.

Evers served as the Wisconsin State Superintendent of Public Instruction, first elected in 2009, before defeating Republican Scott Walker in 2018 to take over as governor, in an election that was largely seen as a referendum on Walker, U.S. News reported. The Trump-backed Michels, co-owner of the state’s largest construction company, defeated former Republican Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch who was endorsed by former Vice President Mike Pence, to clinch the Republican primary, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The two sparred in their only debate in October on a variety of issues ranging from so-called “red flag” gun laws and education. Michels made education a core pillar of his campaign, supporting universal school choice, more funding for career training programs and has pledged to focus on improving literacy in Wisconsin schools, according to the Michels campaign website.

Wisconsin, like many states, has seen a significant academic decline when comparing statewide test results to pre-pandemic scores recorded in 2019, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In 2022, about 39% of students statewide were proficient or higher in statewide math tests, down from 43% in 2019, while 37% were proficient or better in language arts, down from 41% in 2019.

The poor performance was more extreme in the city of Milwaukee, the state’s largest school district, where just 10% of students scored proficient or higher on mathematics, and 14% scored proficient or higher on language arts, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

Evers made abortion a key issue in the election, describing Michels as a “radical” and has asked the GOP-run state legislature to add provisions that would include exceptions for rape and incest to an 1849 abortion ban that went into effect after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, CNN reported. Michels initially claimed the law to be an “exact mirror” of his stance on the issue, but has since walked back that statement, according to Politico.

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