Former Sen. John Lehman was the only Democrat on the recall ballots to declare victory.
At 12:53 a.m., he dedicated his victory to all the hard work and hours of service from volunteers who led the recall efforts in the 21st Senate District, where they went after Sen. Van Wanggaard, who had defeated Lehman in November 2010.
Lehman's closing remarks weren't all that different from the first time he spoke to supporters after his arrival around 9:30 pm at the Racine Labor Center.
"You worked so hard in the best interest of Wisconsin and for Racine County, not just for yourselves," he said. "Let's all take a little breather, take a little time with our families, who have supported us in our efforts, but then let's come back strong for the November elections."
The final vote totals were posted after 1:30 a.m., and by 2 a.m., district-wide unofficial results stood at:
- Wanggaard: 35,476
- Lehman: 36,255
This win gives Democrats control of the State Senate. Four state senators were under recall, and Wanggaard was the only one to not hang on to his seat. Still, the balance in both houses of the legislature could shift again this fall. Of the 33 senate seats, 16 are up for re-election and all 99 in the Assembly are up for grabs.
These results remain unofficial until they are certified.
About an hour before Lehman declared victory, Sen. Van Wanggaard told his supporters they could go home and that they would decide what their options were in the morning.
"The numbers are so close," Wanggaard said. "We don't really know where we're at."
Lehman said he's not surprised by his opponent's reaction.
"I can see why he'd do that," he said. "The race comes down to less than 1,000 votes."
A group of about 50 supporters stuck it out until the end, crowding Lehman as he delivered the news. Loud cheer went up and people waved their "Lehman for Senate" signs, forming a circle around their candidate and the media.
"This wasn't an easy victory," he said. "But I'm excited about the new majority and getting back to an atmosphere of reasonableness that's been missing in Madison."
Lehman said he knew the balance of the legislature rode on this race, but always felt the Democrats had the best chance of winning of all the four senate recall races.
"Early polling numbers supported our chances here, and it turns out they were right," he added.
As for what Lehman plans to do tomorrow, he said he'll probably sleep in a bit and then ride around the 21st District to pick up yard signs.
"It feels good to win," he said. "It feels good to be done with the campaign."