Early in the evening on Nov. 6, crowds began to trickle into the Ingleside Hotel in Pewaukee, Wisconsin, to watch the election results for the governor’s race roll in. They were there to support two-term governor Scott Walker, a Republican who was hoping to win a third term over Democratic opponent Tony Evers. The bar was open and beer glasses were clinked, selfies were taken in front of the Wisconsin flag, and the mood was jubilant as the crowd hoped for a win — and a speech by their candidate, thanking them for their support.
Television cameras lined the back of the room, blasting the attendees with light. Rock music blared from the PA system. The news of the evening was broadcast on a large screen in the center of the room. Occasionally TMJ4 News from Milwaukee would go live from the hotel, and, seeing themselves on screen, the crowd would break into cheers and chants of “four more years, four more years,” trying to get their enthusiasm conveyed on live TV.
The hour grew late and families with children started to leave. By midnight the crowd had significantly thinned as results flip-flopped between Walker and Evers. When Walker was in the lead, the crowd would whoop and cheer. When Evers was in the lead, boos would erupt. And then came the news that with nearly all precincts around the state reporting, more than 45,000 early and absentee ballots from the city of Milwaukee would need to be tallied late. The mood immediately shifted.
The TV news reported it would be at least another 45 minutes before results were in. People started to sit on the floor. Some clasped their hands together in prayer. Quiet settled over the room.
The crowd’s attention picked up when the news said the Milwaukee results were close to being announced. Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch made a surprise visit to the stage to say that the race was not yet over and a recount would most likely be necessary. But her speech had been written before the Milwaukee ballots were tallied, and almost before she finished speaking, it seemed clear to the crowd that her information was out of date.
Not long after Kleefisch left the stage, people started quietly filing out of the room. The music was turned off. The house lights went up. For the Walker supporters, the show was over. He never showed up. Tony Evers had won the race for governor of Wisconsin.
The nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (www.WisconsinWatch.org) collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the UW-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication. All works created, published, posted or disseminated by the Center do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of UW-Madison or any of its affiliates.
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Credit should be given, in this format: “By Dee J. Hall, Wisconsin Watch”
Coburn Dukehart is the Associate Director at Wisconsin Watch. She joined the organization in 2015 as the Digital and Multimedia Director. She is currently head of product and audience, directs visual and digital strategy; creates visual content; manages digital assets and trains student and professional journalists. Dukehart previously was a senior photo editor at National Geographic, picture and multimedia editor at NPR, and a photo editor at USATODAY.com and washingtonpost.com. She has received numerous awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, National Press Photographers Association, Pictures of the Year International and the White House News Photographers Association.