Evers supporters celebrate as Wisconsin governor is re-elected

By: - November 9, 2022 1:00 am

Gov. Tony Evers speaks to a crowd at the Orpheum theater in Madison after winning re-election | Photo by Henry Redman
Gov. Tony Evers speaks to a crowd at the Orpheum theater in Madison after winning re-election | Photo by Henry Redman

The mood at the Orpheum Theater in Madison grew increasingly celebratory as the clock ticked toward midnight and returns continued to show Gov. Tony Evers ahead of his Republican challenger, construction company executive Tim Michels. At 12:30, as CNN called the Wisconsin governor’s race for Evers, the crowd roared. Republican Sen. Ron Johnson was slightly ahead of Democratic Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes in the U.S. Senate race, which was still too close to call Tuesday night.

“I’m jazzed as hell to tell you that on Jan 3, 2023, I will still be the 46th governor of Wisconsin,” Evers told the cheering crowd. He thanked his opponent Tim Michels, who he said had called him to concede, for a hard-fought race.

Some people said he was boring, Evers added, “but it turns out, boring wins.”

Evers thanked the voters for their “grace, kindness and compassion” and said “you showed up for me and showed up for each other.”

Evers then reeled off the issues voters “showed up for,” including reproductive rights, LGBTQ and trans kids’ rights, economic fairness, public schools and saving a “democracy on the brink.”

Part of the reason for Evers’ strength was his performance in Republican strongholds including the Milwaukee suburbs.

Michels, in contrast, failed to win as many votes as former GOP Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans in areas that have been crucial to Republican victories. Michels still carried those areas, but by less than Republicans’ historical margins. While Michels won suburban Waukesha by 21 points, as Craig Gilbert, a Lubar Center fellow at Marquette University Law school pointed out, Walker won the suburb by much larger margins — 33.6 % in 2018 and 45.6% in 2014.

Turnout in Dane County, the Democratic stronghold that includes Madison, also contributed significantly to Evers’ success. Evers won Dane County by 78.7% with 233,902 votes compared with the 220,053 votes he won when he was first elected in 2018.

But in the city of Milwaukee, another critical blue area for Democrats, turnout was down by about 40,000 votes from 2018. That was not good news for Barnes, a Milwaukee native.

As Evers supporters watched the returns on the big screen at the Orpheum theater, state Sen. Melissa Agard said some voters she spoke with during the campaign had told her they generally voted Republican, but were supporting Evers because they felt Republicans’ gerrymandered control of the Legislature was out of balance. Such ticket splitting might help account for the gap in vote totals between Evers and Barnes.

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Ruth Conniff
Ruth Conniff

Ruth Conniff is Editor-in-chief of the Wisconsin Examiner. Conniff is a frequent guest on MSNBC and has appeared on Good Morning America, Democracy Now!, Wisconsin Public Radio, CNN, Fox News and many other radio and television outlets. She has also written for The Nation, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Los Angeles Times, among other publications. Her book "Milked: How an American Crisis Brought Together Midwestern Dairy Farmers and Mexican Workers" won the 2022 Studs and Ida Terkel Award from The New Press.