MILWAUKEE - Gov. Tony Evers, running for a second term as Wisconsin's governor, defeated Republican challenger Tim Michels on the Nov. 8 midterm elections ballot. Michels delivered a concession speech early Wednesday.
Evers celebrated victory at The Orpheum Theater in Madison, as he did in 2018.
Evers. in his victory speech, told his supporters he was "jazzed as hell" by the outcome of the race. "Holy mackerel folks, how about that?" he said.
Evers also noted that he is frequently described as boring, but said: "As it turns out, boring wins."
"I stood here on this very same stage four years ago to the day, and I made a promise to the people in Wisconsin that I would never make promises I couldn't keep and that I always work for you," said Evers. "Over the past four years, I've worked hard to keep those promises and trying to do the right thing. That's who I am, folks, and that's what I've always been."
"We've proved that there is so much we can do when we work together, when we do the right thing and when we're willing to fight for the future that we want for our kids and our state, and we're just getting started, folks," Evers continued.
Just before midnight, with nearly 90% of the expected votes counted, Evers held a slim lead over Michels.
Supporters filed in Tuesday night, and there were cheers as the results started to come in.
"Anecdotally, turnout was really strong," said Sam Roecker, Evers' campaign senior advisor. "We’ve seen solid, steady lines in Madison and Milwaukee which is, obviously, a good sign for Democrats going into the night, but we are also looking at data that came in ahead of time off of early votes that were returned. We know, for example, with young voters, we saw an increase of 300% between young voters in 2018 and now, which is a good sign for Democrats."
Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson spoke with FOX6 News at Evers' watch party.
"I think things are going exceptionally well," said Johnson. "I think turnout is key in this race, and we're seeing a lot of turnout in Milwaukee. Milwaukee’s fate is tied with what happens here in Madison. What happens in state government has a profound effect on Milwaukee, especially in terms of our ability to generate and receive additional revenues. We need the Democrats, and we need the Republicans to work together to serve all the people in Wisconsin."
The race was the most expensive in state history and a key one for Democrats ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
Evers and his wife, Kathy, voted Tuesday morning.
He said he believed reports of high voter turnout across the state were a good sign. He added that even before he knew who his challenger was, he knew this would be a close race.
"I believe I'm going to win, but it's going to be likely a late night or an early morning but that is Wisconsin," said Evers. "It's one of the great things about the state, I guess, is we're not shy about voting, and we're not shy about our politics."
The final Marquette University Law School Poll before the election, released Nov. 2, showed Evers and Michels in a "toss-up" – each with 48% support among likely voters. The previous poll, conducted in October, showed Evers at 47% and Michels at 46% among likely voters.
Wisconsin governor's race results
Before Evers was governor, he was the state superintendent. He was first elected as state superintendent in 2009 and was re-elected to a third term in April 2017. Evers continued to tout his background in education in campaign speeches.
As governor, Evers has often clashed with the state's Republican-controlled Legislature. The governor set the state record for full vetoes in a single legislative session; he vetoed 126 bills in 2021-2022 that would've addressed abortion, guns, schools and elections. Evers also issued more pardons than any other Wisconsin governor in the post-World War II era.
Wisconsin Capitol, Madison
Evers on the issues
Evers said he'd help Wisconsinites battle inflation by lowering taxes on the middle class by 10%. He talked a lot about shared revenue during his 2022 campaign.
Municipalities across the state send tax dollars to Madison. Shared revenue is the amount of money the state sends back. Evers promised to increase shared revenue so that cities and towns have more money to spend on things like law enforcement. The state is currently sitting on a $5 billion surplus.
Evers also supports a woman's right to choose. He called a special session of lawmakers asking them to give voters a say in the matter; the Republican-controlled Legislature quickly gaveled in and out of the session.
In October, Evers said he would not sign a bill that adds exceptions for rape and incest to the state's current 1849 abortion law because "that leaves the underlying law in place." The current law's only exception for abortion is to protect the life of the mother.
Republicans have criticized Evers for his response to the Kenosha unrest in August 2020. Evers has consistently said he did everything that was asked of him, including sending National Guard members when the city requested them.
Evers also called for gun reform – including so-called red flag laws that would allow a judge to take weapons from someone they deem a threat.
The Democratic governor has urged the Republican-controlled Legislature to spend $2 billion more on public schools for areas including mental health services, special education and before-and-after-school programming.
Stephanie Bloomingdale, President of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO
"Congratulations to Governor Tony Evers, Lieutenant Governor Sara Rodriguez, Attorney General Josh Kaul and all the union-approved candidates that won election last night in Wisconsin. Since day one of his administration, Governor Evers has stood with and fought for the working people of Wisconsin. He invested in infrastructure, cracked down on worker misclassification and payroll fraud, protected safe licensing standards and focused on getting families clean drinking water. Governor Evers’ strong record of delivering for the people of Wisconsin won him a second term alongside his new Lieutenant Governor Sara Rodriguez, a former public health nurse who deeply understands the importance of unions.
"While we await the final results of many closely watched races, including the US Senate race between Mandela Barnes and Ron Johnson, we rest assured that the tireless organizing efforts of Wisconsin working people to engage voters in one-on-one discussions about the issues that matter made a critical difference this year.
"While we wait for every vote to be counted, it’s clear the victories we see in Wisconsin were fueled by the grassroots, union-powered campaign of tens of thousands of Labor 2022 volunteers who knocked doors, made phone calls, wrote postcards and had workplace conversations about the candidates who will fight for workers and advance our rights while in office.
"Our conversations don’t end today. We will keep fighting to build worker power, organize new unions, and win on the issues that matter most to working people across our state and nation."
Senator Melissa Agard (D-Madison)
"The people of Wisconsin have reaffirmed their support for Governor Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul. Governor Evers and Attorney General Kaul have and will continue to prioritize the working people of our state, support our public schools, protect voting rights, advocate for reproductive freedom, fight for clean water, and support common sense gun safety reform. It’s past time the gerrymandered Republican Legislature joins us in prioritizing the resounding voices of Wisconsinites rather than remaining beholden to their special interests."
Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin Chairman Ron Corn Sr.
"On behalf of the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, I extend our sincere congratulations to Gov. Tony Evers on winning reelection to serve another four years as the state’s chief executive. We offer our best wishes for his success as he continues his service to Wisconsin. The Menominee have been proud to host the governor for several visits to our reservation over the past number of years, and we consider him a friend and someone who understands our culture, our history, and our needs. The next four years will be important both for Wisconsin and the Menominee Nation, and we look forward to working with Gov. Evers on the issues of economic development, elderly services, education, health care, and other topics and challenges facing both the state and our Tribe."
More FOX6 News coverage on the race for Wisconsin governor
- Election 2022: Gov. Evers vs. Tim Michels on education
- Wisconsin governor race; Evers, Michels on crime
- Wisconsin governor's race; Evers, Michels on abortion, Kenosha riots
- Race for Wisconsin governor: Candidates weigh in on crime concerns
- Wisconsin governor's race: Michels on abortion, taxes and breaking up DNR
Polls closed at 8 p.m. on Election Day, Nov. 8.