Roggensack, Evers win
MADISON, Wis. (AP) – It was out with the new and in with the old in the Wisconsin Supreme Court and state superintendent races, which saw the incumbents easily defeat challengers who were not as well-funded.
Justice Pat Roggensack handily won a second 10-year term over Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone in Tuesday’s election. And state public schools superintendent Tony Evers also decisively beat Republican state Rep. Don Pridemore, winning a second four-year term.
Those were the only statewide races on the ballot. Both were officially nonpartisan, but Democrats backed Evers and Republicans supported Roggensack.
Based on unofficial results, Roggensack beat Fallone 57 percent to 43 percent. Evers topped Pridemore 61 percent to 39 percent.
Evers cast his victory as a rebuke of Gov. Scott Walker’s vision for schools, which calls for an expansion of the private school voucher program while public school spending is frozen. Pridemore embraced that approach in the campaign, but Walker stayed out of it and didn’t endorse either candidate.
Pridemore said Walker’s refusal to get involved in the race hurt his campaign.
“I’m disappointed but I knew the governor was in a tough position and now he’s thinking of running for president,” Pridemore said. “I think a lot of people have to question why he didn’t support someone who would be a much friendlier person in this job.”
Evers, who signed the petition to recall Walker, has also worked closely with the governor on some education initiatives. But on the biggest ones including Walker’s going after collective bargaining for teachers in 2011, school funding and the latest push for voucher schools, Evers has been on the opposite side of the governor.
Pridemore couldn’t match Evers in fundraising and he never ran an ad on television. Evers had an ad and the state teachers union also ran a spot supporting him.
In the Supreme Court race, Roggensack also outraised her opponent and benefited from conservative groups that spent at least $500,000 on TV spots supporting her. No third-party groups came out to help Fallone.
Still, Roggensack said after her victory that she believed her campaign message touting her experience as a judge, and not the money spent by others on television ads supporting her, made the difference.
“I really don’t know if those ads connected with more people, but I suppose it helped drive name recognition,” she said.
Republicans backed Roggensack who is generally viewed as part of the four-justice conservative majority on the court.
Roggensack successfully argued that the Supreme Court race should be about experience and said her 17 years as a judge, including a decade on the state’s highest court, trumped that of Fallone who had only worked as a professor and private practice attorney.
“The public understood that in order to be a justice it’s really better to have some experience as a judge,” Roggensack said.
Fallone tried to make the race about the court itself, saying Roggensack contributed to what he called a dysfunctional environment highlighted by the 2011 altercation between Justice David Prosser and Ann Walsh Bradley in which Prosser placed his hands around Bradley’s neck. Fallone accused Roggensack, who stepped aside in a disciplinary case brought against Prosser, of not doing enough to keep the court on track.
Roggensack, who built a broad coalition of supporters that included other judges, sheriffs, district attorneys and Republicans, countered that she was working to get the court to move past the incident and reform its public image.
Fallone said after his defeat that he felt the campaign raised important issues and he hoped that Roggensack would work to heal divisions on the court. Fallone said he planned to return to teaching, starting with a class Wednesday morning, and being active on issues he raised during the campaign.
“I will continue to speak out,” he said.