(The Center Square) — Wisconsin’s Republican race for governor was over almost as soon as the first vote totals came in.
Business magnate Tim Michels was much closer to former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch in Milwaukee County than many people expected, and that set the tone for the night.
Michels earned a dominant victory, beating Kleefisch by more than 35,000 votes.
Michels won 62 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties, including the entire northern and western parts of the state.
“The tireless days and the long nights, it all paid off,” Michels told the crowd at his victory party Tuesday night. “But all we’ve won is the opportunity to work even harder for the next 90 days because we have to beat Tony Evers.”
Kleefisch told the crowd at her celebration that beating Evers must be the goal of every Republican in the state.
“I urge you all to stay in the fight,” Kleefisch said. “Because the fight is now truly against Tony Evers and the liberals who want to take away our way of life.”
Kleefisch was first into the Republican race, and spent the past eight months running across the state.
Michels joined the race relatively late in April but made a splash with millions of dollars of ads and former President Donald Trump’s endorsement.
“It was a tremendous validation of our meteoric rise in this campaign,” Michels explained. “[The former president] knows that we need to have new leadership in Madison. And he sees a lot of similarities. He didn’t have to run for president, I don’t have to run for governor. He wanted to drain the swamp, and we found out it’s a really big swamp.”
Michels immediately hit Gov. Evers Tuesday night, saying the governor has failed “from COVID to Kenosha.”
Evers didn’t waste any time attacking Michels either.
Within minutes of Michels’ victory speech the governor called him extreme.
“Folks, the Republican Party has nominated Tim Michels, the most divisive and extreme candidate as the gubernatorial nominee,” Evers said on Twitter. “From voting rights to abortion access and reproductive healthcare, there is so much at stake this November.”
The race between Michels and Evers will be one of the most expensive in America this fall, and could be the most expensive in Wisconsin history.
Michels spent $12 million of mostly his money in the primary, and is expected to spend more of his money in the November election.
Gov. Evers has a reported $20 million campaign war chest, and is expected to get millions more in outside money.