MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Pat Roggensack and state public schools superintendent Tony Evers won second terms in Tuesday's election, fending off challenges from candidates who were less well-known and not as well funded.
Roggensack defeated Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone to win another 10-year term on the court, and Evers beat Republican state Rep. Don Pridemore for another four years.
Those were the only statewide races on Tuesday's ballot. There were thousands of other local contests and referendums.
Neither challenger in the statewide races had been able to raise as much money as the incumbents, or generate enough interest from outside groups, to make the contests close. Pridemore never ran a single television ad, and while conservative groups spent at least $500,000 on TV spots for Roggensack, no third party groups came to help Fallone.
Still, Roggensack told The Associated Press that she believed her campaign message touting her 17 years of experience as a judge, and not the money others spent on television ads supporting her, made the difference.
"The public understood that in order to be a justice, it's really better to have some experience as a judge," she said. Fallone has worked only as a professor and private practice attorney.
Both races were officially nonpartisan, but Republicans backed Roggensack who is generally viewed as part of a four-justice conservative majority on the court. Pridemore, one of the most conservative state lawmakers first elected in 2004, had the backing of some within his party but he failed to generate much momentum or raise enough money to seriously challenge Evers, who had the backing of several unions representing teachers, Democratic office holders and others.
Fallone had tried to make his race with Roggensack about the Supreme Court itself, saying Roggensack contributed to what he called a dysfunctional environment highlighted by the 2011 altercation between Justices David Prosser and Ann Walsh Bradley in which Prosser placed his hands around Bradley's neck. Fallone accused Roggensack, who stepped aside in a disciplinary case brought against Prosser, of not doing enough to keep the court on track.
Roggensack, who built a broad coalition of supporters that included other judges, sheriffs, district attorneys and Republicans, countered that she was working to get the court to move past the incident and reform its public image.
Her victory was sealed by Democratic voters like Charles Stoball, a 40-year-old stay-at-home father from Sun Prairie.
Stoball said Roggensack did the right thing by stepping aside in Prosser's disciplinary case because the other conservative justices followed her lead, ending the case and sparing the state further embarrassment.
"They had to put it to bed," Stoball said. "They killed the issue. It was a good thing for the state. You can't have a state Supreme Court justice facing charges."
Fallone said after his defeat that he felt the campaign raised important issues and he hoped that Roggensack would work to heal divisions on the court. Fallone said he planned to return to teaching, starting with a class Wednesday morning, and continue speaking out on issues.
In the superintendent's race, Evers built his campaign around increasing funding for public schools and opposing Republican Gov. Scott Walker's proposals to expand and spend more money on private school vouchers.
Evers told AP he believed his victory shows voters support public schools and oppose Walker's plan to expand the voucher program to more schools.
Pridemore blamed himself for his loss, saying he should have secured more commitments for support from people, including Walker. The governor refused to endorse anyone in the race, even though Evers signed a petition seeking Walker's recall.
"I'm disappointed, but I knew the governor was in a tough position and now he's thinking of running for president," Pridemore said. "I think a lot of people have to question why he didn't support someone who would be a much friendlier person in this job."
Pridemore is a staunch school voucher proponent and argued he was the better choice because he would work closely with Walker on furthering his agenda. That resonated with voters like Zoran Mihailovic, a 52-year-old truck driver from the southeastern Wisconsin town of Somers. He said he voted for Pridemore because Evers signed the recall petition.
Democrats and their allies tried to remove the governor from office because they were angry over Walker's law stripping most public workers of nearly all their bargaining rights, which drastically weakened teacher unions. Walker survived the recall.
Pridemore also differed from Evers by supporting a freeze on public school spending and calling for allowing armed volunteers to patrol school hallways as a safety measure. But Pridemore's fundraising lagged and he was never able to run ads on television to match those put up by Evers and the statewide teachers union, Wisconsin Education Association Council.
Maureen Landsverk, 21, a certified nursing assistant from Sun Prairie, voted for Evers because "I've heard the other guy is kind of a Walker lackey. I don't like Scott Walker."
Associated Press writers Todd Richmond in Sun Prairie and M.L. Johnson in Somers contributed to this report.