By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — The votes are in, and the decision is final.
John Lehman puts Democrats in control of the state Senate, but the slim 17-16 majority could evaporate, if Republicans prevail in the November elections. Eight more Senate seats are up for grabs.
This shift in power, which will be finalized within the next 10 days, occurred after state Sen. Van Wanggaard’s decision Tuesday not to legally challenge the recount of the June 5 recall election, citing the cost to taxpayers and a lack of time to compile a case. Lehman emerged with a final 819-vote lead.
“Despite pleas from around the state to challenge the election, it is not in the best interests of Racine, or Wisconsin, at this time,” the Racine Republican said in a statement. “Now is the time to focus on gaining the state senate back in November, winning Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate seat, and electing Governor (Mitt) Romney as President.”
Whether the Democrat’s majority will affect legislation is questionable, because lawmakers aren’t scheduled to return to session until January. But Senate Democratic Leader Mark Miller, D–Monona, is pushing for an early special legislative session.
“Senator-elect John Lehman has been ready for weeks to get to work for the people of the 21st Senate District on this issue,” Miller said in a statement. “Our caucus is ready to work with Governor (Scott) Walker and the (GOP-led) Assembly to spark job creation in our state.”
But, the outgoing senator’s campaign asserted voter fraud and irregularities in Racine County, postponing election results for more than a month. Suspicions of irregularities arose as early as election night when tallies came in well after midnight, after the other five recall elections were counted.
“The investigation into irregularities does not stop today,” Wanggaard said. “The investigation will continue and evidence discovered will be provided to law enforcement.”
The Government Accountability Board, which oversees the state’s elections, will certify the results of the election 8 a.m. Wednesday. Lehman will take the oath of office within the next 10 days.
“I’m grateful that Senator Wanggaard has decided not to pursue a legal challenge,” said Lehman. “I’m pleased he’s decided to recognize the will of the voters confirmed by a canvass and a vote recount. He called this morning to congratulate me on my victory.”
The battle is not over. Wanggaard, who defeated Lehman in the 2010 election, vowed Tuesday to start campaigning immediately to regain the Senate seat in 2014. Wanggaard may have an advantage in the next election cycle, because the newly drawn district lines moved the heavily Democratic Racine city from District 21 to District 22.