Both the race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction and the race for Wisconsin’s Supreme Court ended as expected on Tuesday, April 4. In the contest to lead the state’s Department of Public Instruction (DPI), incumbent Tony Evers was re-elected to his third term with approximately 70% of the vote. Evers defeated challenger Lowell Holtz, who had earned a spot on the ballot after placing second in a Feb. 21 primary race. Evers will serve until 2021. In Wisconsin’s Supreme Court race, Justice Annette Ziegler was re-elected to her second 10-year term after no candidate filed paperwork to challenge the justice by the January filing deadline. Finally, school districts across the state overwhelmingly approved school funding referenda present on the April 4 ballot, with two-thirds of the 65 related referenda on local ballots passing. Notably, two of the three largest referenda passed in Green Bay and Verona. In total, $699.7 million will be allocated to school districts across the state as a result of the spring ballot.
Turnout for the April 4 elections was low, with about 700,000 votes tallied, just under 16 percent of the state’s voting age population. Still, Evers’ margin of victory increased from 2013 and 2009, in which he won 61.1 and 57.1 percent of the vote in each DPI race respectively. He attributed the wide margin of victory to his proven success as state superintendent and his positive vision for Wisconsin schools in the future. In his re-election statement, he cited challenges ahead after asserting, “I think that when you talk about the issues that really matter to folks, they show up and vote. Our campaign was about our kids, and the future of Wisconsin.” Evers’ platform centered on supporting public schools and identifying his work in the past to raise academic standards and graduation rates in Wisconsin. Moving forward, he seeks to increase public school funding in the state by over $700 million.
Evers received four times as much fundraising compared to his opponent. While the race crossed partisan lines, Evers received deep support from state Democrats and organized labor groups while Holtz drew more support from conservative voters. Holtz, former superintendent of both the Whitnall and Beloit school districts, lost his second run for the position. He advocated abandoning Common Core academic standards and increasing school choice through voucher programs. In his remarks after the race, Holtz congratulated Evers, wishing him the best in his new term but expressing hope that his own campaign raised attention for pertinent issues regarding underperforming schools in Wisconsin.
Also as a result of the April 4 ballot, Justice Annette Ziegler will begin her second term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court after winning an unopposed race for the position. Failure by Democrats to offer an opponent and Justice Ziegler’s subsequent re-election upholds the court’s 5-2 conservative majority. After the victory, Justice Ziegler thanked voters and expressed her commitment “to uphold the law in an impartial and fair manner.”