OSHKOSH – The fall primary races may not be completely in the books, as one race in Northeast Wisconsin appears to be too close to call.
In the Republican primary for the 6th Congressional District, Glenn Grothman had a substantial lead early. He is still in the lead, but only barely. Grothman stands 214 votes ahead of Joe Leibham.
The Associated Press initially called the race for Grothman Tuesday night, but reversed itself Wednesday as Grothman’s lead all but evaporated.
Talking to supporters late Tuesday night, Grothman was looking ahead to November’s election.
“Tomorrow morning, we’re going to have to start again on like another three month campaign we just we went through,” said Grothman.
That was when Grothman led Leibham by about 3,500 votes.
Wednesday morning, after every precinct had reported, the margin shrank dramatically – so much, a Lawrence University government professor said results could shift in Leibham’s favor.
“In a similar situation, most politicians would ask for at least a recount,” said Arnold Shober. “It’s something he can do, it can settle the question if there are some ballots that were miscounted the first time around.”
Under Wisconsin law, any candidate can request a recount. The candidate does not have to pay for the recount if the margin stays at or below one-half of a percentage point. Grothman is leading Leibham by just three-tenths of a percent.
Breaking down which counties supported which candidate, it’s clear Leibham had an advantage near his hometown. He is currently a state senator from Sheboygan, and he got the most votes in Sheboygan and Manitowoc counties.
Meanwhile, Grothman carried all but one of the other nine counties in the district. He is a state senator from Campbellsport, which is in southern Fond du Lac County.
Both candidates declined interviews with FOX 11 Wednesday, but they emailed statements about where the race stands.
Leibham said: “Out of respect to the voters of the 6th Congressional District, I believe we need to allow the election officials to finish counting and double checking all of the votes cast in Tuesday’s election.”
Grothman is still looking ahead to November: “I’m confident that the lead we have today will hold strong and I look forward to a speedy certification of the results, a robust general election campaign and another victory on November 4.”
The other two candidates in the race, Duey Stroebel and Tom Denow, finished well behind Grothman and Leibham.
The vote tallies are still several days away from being official, plus some votes may still need to be counted. Absentee ballots had to be postmarked by Tuesday, meaning they may not have arrived at clerks’ offices yet.
A candidate can’t request a recount until the vote is final. That determination has to be made by a week from Friday.
The lone Democrat in the race said he is ready to face whoever wins the Republican primary.
At a press conference Wednesday morning, Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris said the views and votes of Grothman and Leibham have a lot of overlap, so the uncertainty doesn’t affect him.
“My campaign is going to move forward, and I am going to take this campaign to all 11 counties in the 6th Congressional District,” said Harris.
Harris also challenged his eventual opponent to debates in every county in the district.
The winner would replace Rep. Tom Petri. The Republican from Fond du Lac has served in Congress for 35 years. He announced his retirement in April.