Recapping a historic midterm election in Wisconsin

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Recapping a historic midterm election in Wisconsin

Tony Evers
Tony Evers

Election 2018 is in the books, and as midterms go, it was one to remember.

State schools Superintendent Tony Evers denied Gov. Scott Walker a third four-year term.

U.S. Tammy Baldwin rolled to an easy victory over state Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, and got another six-year term.

Republicans kept two targeted congressional districts and preserved firm majorities in the Legislature despite a Democratic sweep of statewide offices.

And turnout in the midterm was the highest since 1948.

Walker’s failure to hit his 2014 marks in the suburban counties around Milwaukee, combined with the strength of the Democratic turnout in Dane and Milwaukee counties, helped drive Evers’ win, according to a review of county returns.

Four years ago, Walker took 72.4 percent in Waukesha County, 75.9 percent in Washington County and 70 percent in Ozaukee County.

Had he hit those percentages this year, it would have flipped 21,185 votes to the governor and away from Evers. That would have more than made up for Evers’ 30,849-vote margin of victory yesterday.

Instead, Walker hit 66.1 percent in Waukesha County, 72.2 percent in Washington County and 62.7 percent in Ozaukee County.

Meanwhile, Dane and Milwaukee counties produced big numbers for Evers.

The state schools superintendent took 74.7 percent of the vote in Dane County, which went to Democratic nominee Mary Burke with 69.7 percent four years ago. Evers won Milwaukee County with 66.5 percent after Burke hit 62.8 percent in 2014.

In all five counties, turnout was up compared to four years ago.

In raw numbers, Evers’ 150,808-vote margin in Dane County alone wiped out Walker’s advantage of 120,498 across the three “WOW” counties.

Add in Evers’ margin of 133,319 in Milwaukee County and the Dem nominee had more than enough cushion to offset a loss in the 15-county Green Bay media market by 75,350 votes, along with deficits in other counties around the state.

Scott Walker
Scott Walker

Altogether, Evers won 19 of the state’s 72 counties; Burke won 16. The three that flipped were Richland, Grant and Kenosha counties.


» Turnout in the election was the highest for a midterm since at least 1948, per a review.

According to unofficial returns from The Associated Press, about 59 percent of the voting population cast a ballot in the gubernatorial race. That turnout was higher than both the 2014 midterms, which saw 55 percent turnout, and the 2012 recall election between Gov. Scott Walker and Democrat Tom Barrett, when 58 percent of voters cast a ballot.

Some counties reported near presidential turnout numbers, though statewide the nearly 2.7 million who cast votes for governor was down slightly from 2016, when about 3 million voters turned out.

Turnout in two Democratic strongholds — Dane and Milwaukee — was strong. In Dane County, 296,052 of an estimated 419,870 voters cast a ballot, or about 71 percent of eligible voters. That’s compared to 309,354 voters who participated in the 2016 presidential election, which saw 75 percent turnout among eligible voters.

In Milwaukee County, unofficial results show 399,146 voters weighed in on the midterms, about 55 percent of the voting age population.

In Waukesha County, unofficial results show 219,520 voters cast a ballot, roughly matching Dane County’s turnout of 71 percent of eligible voters.

Meanwhile, 70,845 voters participated in Washington County, or about 68 percent of eligible voters, and in Ozaukee County, 51,396 of voters cast a ballot, about 75 percent of eligible voters.

» The upcoming four-year term will be the first one since 1982 that Democrats will hold all five statewide constitutional offices.

That was during Gov. Tony Earl’s tenure. At the time, James Flynn served as lieutenant governor, Doug La Follette was secretary of state, Charles Smith was state treasurer and Bronson La Follette was attorney general. The five simultaneously held office from 1982-86.

» Democrat Mandela Barnes is prepared to make history as the state’s first African-American lieutenant governor.

He’s also the second African-American person elected to statewide office in Wisconsin. The first was former secretary of state and civil rights leader Vel Phillips, who passed away in April at age 95.

Phillips was elected to the office in 1978. She held it for one term, losing her re-election bid in the 1982 Democratic primary.


The Capitol Report is written by editorial staff at, a nonpartisan, Madison-based news service that specializes in coverage of government and politics, and is distributed for publication by members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.

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