Wisconsin Democrats moved ahead Wednesday with plans for running the state Senate, even though the crucial recall contest they say handed them a one-seat majority remained too close to call.
At a news conference, Senate Democratic Leader Mark Miller of Monona said he is the new majority leader and has already spoken with Republican Leader Scott Fitzgerald about the transition, dismissing the possibility that incumbent GOP Sen. Van Wanggaard might seek a recount.
"We look forward to opening up the governmental process to the public," Miller said. Fitzgerald said Miller's stance is premature.
Democrats forced Wanggaard, Fitzgerald and two other GOP senators into recalls as payback for supporting Gov. Scott Walker's divisive policies. One of the senators resigned rather than defend her seat, creating a 16-16 split between Democrats and Republicans.
Democrats had to win only one of the contests Tuesday to seize control of the chamber; Republicans cruised to wins for three of the seats but had to win all four to retake a majority.
It likely won't matter much who ultimately wins the chamber, at least right now. The Legislature isn't expected to convene again until January, and whichever party gains the majority will have to defend it before then in November's elections.
Wanggaard had the edge on challenger John Lehman in Racine's 21st Senate District early on, but updates on the results slowed to a trickle as the night dragged on. The unofficial tally, completed as sunrise approached, showed Lehman leading Wanggaard 36,255 to 35,476, a margin of 779 votes, or just over 1 percent.
Lehman quickly proclaimed he was the winner, but Wanggaard has refused to concede and said his supporters are pressing him to seek a recount.
The election was rife with "voting irregularities," he said in a statement, without elaborating. Regardless, Wanggaard said he wants to wait until Racine County completes its official vote count.
"We all know that the best decisions are made when well rested and after consideration of all the options," Wanggaard said.
Wisconsin candidates can request a recount within three business days of county officials' completing their final tally. Racine County officials have until Friday to receive 529 outstanding absentee ballots, Government Accountability Board spokesman Reid Magney said, and aren't expected to begin their count until next week.
Wanggaard would be on the hook to pay $685 of the recount's costs because the margin is between 0.5 and 2 percent.