Democratic incumbent Tony Evers has won reelection in the hotly contested Wisconsin governor’s race, defeating his Republican opponent, Tim Michels.
Michels told supporters early Wednesday morning that he had conceded the race.
Evers, the state’s former top education official, ousted Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, in 2018 by a single point. Michels had attempted to paint Evers as soft on crime, but Democrats were able to pull off a victory with a campaign that included a rally headlined by former President Barack Obama late last month.
“If you care about protecting your right to vote, protecting access to abortion and investing in our kids’ public education, you need to get out and vote for my friend Gov. Tony Evers,” Obama said in an ad. “Tony’s doing the right thing for Wisconsin. He cares about people like you, and he needs your support at the ballot box.”
Evers made abortion a central feature of the race, focusing on his opponent’s support for an 1849 law that went into effect following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in June. The 1849 law made it a felony to perform the procedure in the state, resulting in a total ban except when the life of the mother is in danger.
Evers has called multiple times for the Wisconsin Legislature to address the issue and supported a lawsuit from Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul to have the 19th century ban ruled unconstitutional.
“The bottom line here is this: Women should have the ability and the right to make decisions about their health care, including reproductive health care, and that includes abortion,” Evers said at the lone debate between the two candidates.
He also focused on defending the integrity of the state’s elections. Michels, a millionaire construction magnate who has unsuccessfully run for office before, has questioned the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election and initially declined to say whether he would certify election results in 2024. The two also offered starkly different approaches to public education, which Evers vowed to defend, and "red flag" laws for gun owners, which Michels said could be unconstitutional.
Evers said he planned to use the state’s budget surplus for a 10% tax cut for the middle class; Michels was less specific, calling for “massive tax reform” and supporting a flat tax that economists said would benefit the wealthy. Michels also blamed worker shortages on COVID relief programs that he said made people “lazy.”
“We created an entire class of lazy people during COVID. It's time to get them back engaged in our economy, to stop just sending them the unemployment checks,” he said at the debate last month.
While Democrats routinely win in Wisconsin at the state level, Republicans control the state Legislature, a dynamic that has led to Evers often reaching for his veto pen. Democrats blame Republican gerrymandering for Wisconsin’s divided government, although fears of a complete GOP takeover of the state may have helped Evers in his race with Michels.
"I promise you when we are here in one year with Gov. Michels, every single thing that Gov. Evers has vetoed is going to be considered by the Legislature," Robin Vos, the state’s powerful Assembly speaker, said at a GOP rally in September. "And hopefully all of it becomes law."