BURLINGTON -- Two years after he lost his job in a recall election, Van Wanggaard is headed back to the state Senate.

According to unofficial returns, Wanggaard had 44,923 votes to Democrat Randy Bryce’s 28,087 votes, with all precincts reporting.

The 21st Senate District covers most of Racine and Kenosha counties.

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At an election-night party at Veterans Terrace, 589 Milwaukee Ave., Wanggaard said he looked forward to picking up where he left off after he was defeated in a June 2012 recall.

He said he wants to focus on making government more efficient and getting it “down to the size it should be.”

“It really is a good feeling to be in a position where you are able to go back and finish what you started,” Wanggaard said. “Just being able to continue to build on the things that are already set in place, I think that’s the big thing.”

Wanggaard, 62, was elected to the 21st Senate District seat in 2010 but held the position for less than two years; he was recalled in 2012. The recall was largely driven by Wanggaard’s vote for Act 10, the controversial legislation that effectively ended collective bargaining for public employees.

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Wanggaard was defeated in the 2012 recall by John Lehman, D-Racine, who opted not to seek re-election and instead ran for lieutenant governor.

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Bryce, 49, is an ironworker and labor organizer who made his second bid for public office. He ran for state Assembly in 2012.

“Obviously we didn’t get the results we were hoping for tonight,” Bryce said. “But I wouldn’t call the experience … a loss. There’s so many amazing people that I got to know so much better throughout the process.”

“We weren’t outworked,” Bryce added. “It was based more on how the district was carved up.”

Bryce was referring to the redistricting after the 2010 election. The district was redrawn to include fewer urban areas and more rural and conservative-leaning portions of Racine and Kenosha counties.

Before Tuesday’s election, Wanggaard won a contentious primary in August over Republican Jonathan Steitz, getting more than 71 percent of the vote.

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