Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

Whew, it was close


Whew, it was close

Supreme Court recount never should have happened

Now that JoAnne Kloppenburg has finally accepted what the rest of the state already knew, let’s let it all out: “Whew, that was close!”

Not the recount, of course. That was never in doubt. The only way Kloppenburg could have won during the recount was if the counters uncovered another Kathy Nickolaus-sized error, and fortunately there is only one Kathy Nickolaus serving as county clerk out there.

Unfortunately, she is serving here in Waukesha County so we bore the brunt of the recount and the election criticism.

Even after the recount Justice David Prosser won re-election by over 7,000 votes. That is not surprising when you consider the largest margin overcome in a statewide recount was close to 500 votes.

Kloppenburg did not even get that many more votes in the recount, only picking up a net 312 votes. In the process Kloppenburg’s efforts disenfranchised a few cloistered nuns, threatened to disenfranchise the entire city of Brookfield, fueled wacky conspiracy theories and spent a great deal of taxpayer money. All for 312 votes.

It is not as if Kloppenburg believed she won. When she was asked that very question at the press conference announcing the recount request, she didn’t have an answer.

There was no reason for Kloppenburg to believe she won. The number that Nickolaus dropped on election night but found during the canvass matched what the city of Brookfield reported on election night. One goofy spreadsheet error did not justify a statewide recount Kloppenburg should have known she could not win.

Yet even now Kloppenburg is calling for “an independent investigation” of the election in Waukesha County. What does she think another investigation would uncover? Where Jimmy Hoffa is buried?

All the evidence is in. The Government Accountability Board examined everything and did not find fraud. A hand recount of the ballots in Waukesha County that took longer than any other county in the state merely confirmed Prosser’s victory. After all that, Kloppenburg is still willing to indulge the conspiracy theorists on the left by calling for yet another investigation.

At some point in this post-election curtain call that would not end it must have occurred to the independents who voted for her that they made a terrible mistake. Kloppenburg did not have the judgment to be a political candidate, let alone a state Supreme Court justice. Can anyone but a left-wing ideologue look at Kloppenburg now and think that she was Supreme Court material?

But in the heat of the moment leading up to Election Day, voters almost made that terrible choice. Not quite a majority of voters were ready to let events in Madison make one single issue determine who the next state Supreme Court justice would be.

Prosser made his first victory speech back on April 18, and in it he reaffirmed his belief in the importance in a republican form of government of holding judges accountable through elections.

There are calls from different quarters to find a way to remove the public from picking judges, especially for the state Supreme Court. They complain about the expense of the campaigns and how the fundraising might corrupt the judges.

In this election we had a system of public financing that was supposed to fund the election campaigns and keep independent expenditures at bay. It didn’t work. First, the independent money flowed in anyway, overwhelming the money spent by the campaigns themselves. Then the recount meant that all fundraising caps were off.

So much for publicly funded election campaigns cleaning up the process.

The state Legislature is getting ready to end state-funded political campaigns in the upcoming state budget and it is long overdue.

All the public financing did was turn JoAnne Kloppenburg into a credible candidate far beyond her capabilities. As the recount demonstrated, she never should have been a serious candidate. Taxpayer money turned her into a real candidate, and we paid extra for it.

Fortunately, the voters lived up to Prosser’s expectations and re-elected him. Prosser and his campaign manager Brian Nemoir are to be congratulated on winning a very tough race under terrible circumstances.

But, whew, it was close.

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

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