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Wisconsin Watch partners with Gigafact to produce fact briefs — bite-sized fact checks of trending claims. Read our methodology to learn how we check claims.


Gov. Tony Evers announced his victory in the Wisconsin gubernatorial race in the early morning on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022, saying in his acceptance speech, “Holy mackerel, folks, how about that?” He repeated his “holy mackerel” catchphrase in a tweet.

His Republican opponent Tim Michels conceded in the early morning on Nov. 9. “Unfortunately, the math doesn’t add up,” he told supporters. 

With over 95% of votes counted, Evers won the election for his second term as governor with more than 51% of the vote, beating Michel’s share of under 48%. Evers won in 2018 by a little more than 1 percentage point.

While there appears to be a lack of agreement on where the phrase comes from— a version of “Holy Mary!”, a reference to Catholics eating fish on Fridays or a combination— Merriam-Webster says the expression is used when “one is very surprised, pleased, or excited.” 


Tony Evers: Tweet from November 9, 2022. 7:14 a.m. CDT.

AP News: Wisconsin Gov. Evers defeats foe he called democracy threat

New York Times: Wisconsin governor election results

Merriam-Webster: Holy mackerel Definition & Meaning

The Guardian: Where does the expression ‘Holy Mackerel’ come from?

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Jacob Alabab-Moser joined as Wisconsin Watch’s fact checker in September 2022, as part of the effort by The Gigafact Project in partnership with different state-level news outlets to combat misinformation in the 2022 midterm elections. Jacob has several years of experience as a fact checker and research assistant at a variety of organizations, including at The Gigafact Project. He holds a BA from Brown University and is pursuing a MSc from the London School of Economics and Political Science.