Democrat Tony Evers, the former head of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, won the gubernatorial race in Wisconsin last night, defeating two-term incumbent Scott Walker. Evers’ victory is one of seven governorships that the Democratic party gained in this election, and it comes in what has been a reliably red state since 2010.
On the morning of Election Day, Evers was ahead in the preliminary polls by less than two percentage points, according to FiveThirtyEight. But pollsters and experts alike were uncertain of which way the state would swing. In the end, the New York Times called the race for Evers well into Wednesday morning, with Evers winning 49.6 percent of the vote to Walker’s 48.5 percent.
Throughout the night and into the morning, the state flipped back and forth as election results poured in. Evers’ slim margin of victory was fueled by his strong support in the state’s urban centers like Milwaukee county and Madison. In fact, a block of mailed ballots from Milwaukee county that was counted in the early morning helped push Evers over the finish line.
The race represented a stark choice for Wisconsin voters, as the two men presented drastically different visions for the state. While Evers focused on education during his campaign, Walker emphasized the success of the economy and the low unemployment rate he claimed to have helped cultivate in office.
However, Walker’s history of political controversy may have helped Evers’ chances. He was subject to a recall vote in 2012, which he won, and has been the subject of a campaign finance investigation in 2014. Walker also welcomed President Trump onto his campaign trail this year after having denounced him as a candidate in 2016, signaling a reversal of values.
This election is not viewed by most as a referendum on the president, though.
“I really don’t think it has anything to do with Trump,” SESP junior and College Democrats member Jenny Slota said. If anything, she said, it was a referendum on the controversial reign of former governor Walker, who she said “didn’t have support” such as Paul Ryan and other popular Republicans in the state.
The subsequent result reflects a state deeply divided over its plan for the future. In the end, they will now face that future with someone new at the helm.