RACINE — In a crucial election that swings control of the state Senate to the Democrats, Racine County appeared to have ousted current state Sen. Van Wanggaard Tuesday.
Former state Sen. John Lehman, D-Racine led state incumbent Republican Sen. Van Wanggaard, with 36,255 votes to Wanggaard's 35,476 votes, according to unofficial results with all precincts reporting.
Three Republicans won state Senate races Tuesday in Wisconsin, but with Lehman winning Racine County, the Democrats will take control of the Senate and gain the 17-16 majority.
Lehman declared victory shortly before 1 a.m.
“First of all, this victory is solely dedicated to all the hardworking volunteers who have put us over the top tonight," he stated in a news release. "Tonight, the citizens of Racine County voted for checks and balances in our state legislature. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the state senate.”
Around 12:50 a.m., Justin Phillips, Wanggaard’s campaign manager, released a statement saying, “We owe it to all of Senator Wanggaard’s supporters and the voters of Wisconsin to thoroughly examine the election and its results and act accordingly once we have all of the information.”
Some of the delay came from absentee ballots. More than an hour after polls had closed in Racine, and as late as 11:30 p.m. in Mount Pleasant, election workers were still entering stacks of absentee ballots.
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This is the second time in a year and a half Lehman and Wanggaard have faced each other in this exact race. In November 2010, Wanggaard was elected to the state Senate, defeating Lehman with 52 percent of the vote. However, that was before the Legislature passed controversial law changes that essentially eliminated collective bargaining for most public employees. Those changes led to hundreds of thousands of people swarming the Capitol in Madison and rallies throughout the state. But throughout the last year, Republicans repeatedly reminded people about the amount of money those changes will save the state.
Those are changes that Jon Dose, 44, of Caledonia, said he agreed with and because of that he again voted Republican.
Dose, who is unemployed, said, “I voted for them the first time and I didn’t want my vote stolen.”
Likewise, Paul Robbins, 67, Sturtevant, semi-retired consultant, said he voted Republican because, “We can’t keep spending money at levels we have been and we have to reinvest in private business.”
Not everyone felt that way.
Kathy Demet, 48, of Sturtevant, who is on disability said, “When you are a poor person, like on disability, you have to vote for people who let you live. Walker wants to take all that away from people.”
Plus she said, Lehman used to be a teacher of hers in high school. “He’s an educated person,” she said.
As long as the election results are not challenged, Lehman will likely be sworn in by the end of the month. Reid Magney, spokesman for the GAB, said it could take up to 18 days to certify the results of the election. Then the winner has up to 10 days to take the oath of office.