WASHINGTON — After JoAnne Kloppenburg declared victory on Wednesday over conservative incumbent Justice David Prosser in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race, Gov. Scott Walker (R) quickly tried to convince the public that the result was not a referendum on him, his legislation that stripped collective bargaining from public employees, or the state’s embattled Republican Party. But before the election, back when Prosser’s victory looked more likely, Walker’s allies were branding it as exactly that.
Just a couple of weeks ago, few people thought Kloppenburg could beat Prosser, a close ally of Walker’s. She lost by 30 points to Prosser in the February primary (the election is nonpartisan), and incumbents for the state’s high court have rarely been unseated.
Even the labor community, which desperately wanted Kloppenburg to win, had doubts. Labor groups had been trying to avoid framing the race as a referendum on Walker, one labor official said, because they were not confident that Kloppenburg could upset Prosser — and it was clear Walker and his allies were anticipating a much-needed symbolic win. “Let’s put it this way,” said the official, “I had Prosser winning in the office pool, and I wasn’t alone.”