Nail-Biter Wisconsin Supreme Court Race Too Close to Call

| Wed Apr. 6, 2011 8:53 AM EDT

The slugfest between liberal JoAnne Kloppenburg and conservative David Prosser to claim the swing seat on Wisconsin's Supreme Court, viewed by many as proxy fight pitting progressives and labor unions against Republican Governor Scott Walker, was still too close to call this morning. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Prosser leads by a razor-thin 835-vote margin as of 8:51 a.m. Eastern time.

On Tuesday evening, as election officials tallied the nearly 1.5 million ballots cast throughout the state, the two candidates traded the lead, but the race never looked close to finished. Prosser, a sitting justice on the court, dominated conservative areas like Washington and Waukesha Counties, the latter the home turf of Governor Walker. But Kloppenburg, a long-time assistant attorney general, fared well in urban counties like Dane, which includes the liberal capital Madison, and Milwaukee, home to the state's most populous city.

There are still 24 precincts yet to be recorded by the Associated Press, which keeps a running tally. Of those, 22 precincts are in districts where Kloppenburg has won the majority of votes already cast, including urban areas like Milwaukee (2 to be counted) and Dane (1 left). In other words, the stragglers left to be tallied in this race could very well tip the scale to Kloppenburg.

Now, with such a tight race, there will no doubt be legal challenges to the results, and possibly a recount. That challenge could even end up before the state Supreme Court itself, at which point Prosser would no doubt have to recuse himself from the decision. But even if Kloppenburg ends up falling short, progressives and unions can call the race a victory for them. A few months ago, Prosser, who beat Kloppenburg in the four-way primary by 30 point, was expected to coast to victory. "Even if she comes up short, a very powerful message has been sent," says Robert Kraig, executive director of Citizen Action of Wisconsin.

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