Democratic Gov. Tony Evers defeats Republican Tim Michels in Wisconsin's governor race.
Michels won a contested GOP primary after receiving Trump's backing.
Evers has tried to pin Michels down on abortion after the state's ban went into effect.
Democratic Gov. Tony Evers defeated Trump-backed Republican Tim Michels in Wisconsin's governor race.
Polls closed in the state at 8 p.m. local time, or 9 p.m. EST.
Wisconsin's gubernatorial candidates
Evers notched a shocking upset in 2018 when he ousted Republican Gov. Scott Walker — an early 2016 presidential election favorite — from the Wisconsin gubernatorial mansion just three years after Walker bested a recall campaign.
Evers' fight never really ended. Almost immediately, Wisconsin Republicans moved to limit his and other Democrats' power, though a judge turned that effort away. The two sides' frequent tussles have led Evers to veto more bills than any other governor in the state's history.
Michels, who co-owns the state's largest construction company, bested former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch in a closely contested GOP primary that hinged on former President Donald Trump's support of Michels. Michels later refused to rule out an unprecedented — and unconstitutional — effort in the state to decertify Biden's 2020 win there.
Like in other races across the country, abortion remains a key issue in this race. Michels initially expressed support for Wisconsin's abortion ban, first enacted in 1849, that bans abortions in almost every instance. Michels now says he would support passing exceptions to allow abortion in cases of rape and incest. The current law allows an exception for the life of the mother, but some doctors have complained the exact wording is antiquated and are afraid of risking a felony charge.
While Evers has attacked Michels on abortion, the Republican has assailed the incumbent for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, following the shooting of Jacob Blake.
Wisconsin's voting history
Evers ended eight years of Republican control of the governor's mansion. He won by roughly a single percentage point, or just under 30,000 votes.
At the top level, Wisconsin like neighboring Michigan was once part of the so-called "blue wall." Trump broke this streak in 2016, becoming the first Republican to carry the state since Ronald Reagan during his 1984 reelection.
Biden's 2020 win came at a narrower margin than Evers' 2018 victory. The president carried Wisconsin by just under 21,000 votes.
The money race
Michels has been able to use his considerable wealth to fund his campaign. He has raised roughly $16 million, spent about $15 million, and has just over $1 million remaining, as of his campaign's September 27 report to state officials. Michels has also loaned his campaign $3.7 million just in the month of August. Before the primary, the construction owner was clocked at spending nearly $1 million dollars of his own money a week, according to the Associated Press.
While Evers had a head start in fundraising. This year, the governor has raised roughly $15.8 million, spent about $20 million, and has just over $6 million on hand, as of his campaign's September 27 report.
What experts say
The race between Evers and Michels is rated as a "toss-up" by Inside Elections, The Cook Political Report, and Sabato's Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
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