La Follette declares victory in too-close-to-call Secretary of State race

Loudenbeck campaign: La Follette's declaration 'doesn't change anything'

Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette listens to Assistant Attorney General Maria Lazar
Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug La Follette listens to Assistant Attorney General Maria Lazar make her opening arguments at a hearing in front of Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi at the Dane County Courthouse in Madison, Wis., March 29, 2011. Michael P. King/AP Photo

With the race still too close to call, Wisconsin Secretary of State Democrat Doug La Follette has declared victory in his bid for reelection.

La Follette said the release of Waukesha County’s canvassing results Thursday made him confident enough to declare victory. According to his campaign, only three counties have yet to verify their unofficial vote totals. Those counties are Milwaukee, Monroe and Washington.

“There just was no chance in those counties to have enough to overturn the 7,000 vote lead that I have,” La Follette told Wisconsin Public Radio. “I decided to go ahead, before the weekend, and say, ‘I think I’m the winner and I want to move ahead.’

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The remaining counties have until Tuesday to complete their canvass, and the Wisconsin Elections Commission has until Dec. 1 to certify results.

La Follette’s victory declaration came Thursday when his campaign released a statement, in which La Follette described his lead as a win for those “who chose to keep the supervision of elections out of the hands of corrupting partisan influences.”

“I am excited to move forward working with Gov. (Tony) Evers and the Republicans in the state Legislature to secure the resources and staff the office requires to provide the services that we are obligated to the people of Wisconsin,” the statement continued. “We need to move this office out of the basement and let it work for the people.”

In a statement, his challenger Republican Amy Loudenbeck said La Follette’s declaration “doesn’t change anything.”

“It’s just another attempt by him to mischaracterize this race by framing my platform as his own while making a veiled and completely inappropriate accusation of corrupt influences,” the statement read. “My team and I will continue to await the final results of the canvass.”

A spokesperson for the Loudenbeck campaign said she is not doing interviews while the canvass is still in progress.

La Follette said he doesn’t believe declaring victory ahead of the complete canvass — or an official call from the Associated Press — undermines his previous comments about protecting elections.

“I’m not concerned about that,” he said. “The votes are almost all in. There’s no chance it’s going to change now.”

If La Follette’s lead stays within a 1 percent margin, Loudenbeck may request a recount.

Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator Meagan Wolfe detailed the recount process in a post-election interview with WPR’s “The Morning Show.”

“If the margin is between 1 percent and 0.26 percent, then the candidate has to pay for that recount,” Wolfe said. “If the margin is a quarter of a percent or less, then the recount is free for the candidate at least — not for the state necessarily.”

La Follette added that he hopes to work with Republicans to bolster the Secretary of State office, which has one full-time employee. He said the office needs two additional employees to adequately serve Wisconsin.

“I’m hoping that the Republicans will stop thinking about Doug La Follette and start thinking about the people of Wisconsin,” La Follette said. “Fifty or more (people) every day come to the office and need services, which we can’t provide. I have one person and if she gets sick, it’s a problem.”

The Associated Press still had not called the Secretary of State race as of Friday afternoon.