News Guide: A look at key Wisconsin elections, from attorney general to Congress

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MADISON, Wisconsin — The race between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke captured the bulk of attention on Tuesday, but Wisconsin voters filled three other statewide offices, chose their congressional representatives and decided how to handle the state transportation fund. Here's a look at what happened:


TOP COP

Veteran Republican prosecutor Brad Schimel defeated Democrat Susan Happ on Tuesday to become Wisconsin's next attorney general and end to one of the most fiercely contested attorney general races the state has seen in years.

Schimel and Happ were vying to replace outgoing Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.

Lori Smith, a 50-year-old food service production manager from Lodi, voted for Schimel. She said accusations that Happ went easy on a suspected child molester who bought her house turned her against Happ.

"The whole thought that somebody would have negotiations with a child molester kind of rubbed me wrong," Smith said. "I didn't vote for someone as much as I voted against somebody."

The attorney general race is typically a quiet affair, lost in the shadow of the governor's race. Not so this time around.

Happ, Jefferson County's district attorney, emerged as the surprise winner in a three-way Democratic primary in August. She and Schimel, Waukesha County's district attorney, spent much of the next two months locked in a tight race that turned increasingly negative as Election Day approached.

Schimel and his allies picked apart Happ's courtroom record, looking for plea deals she reached with defendants that they claim showed she was soft on crime. They especially focused on the case of Daniel Reynolds, an alleged child molester who purchased Happ's house. Happ's office gave him a deferred prosecution, allowing him to avoid a conviction if he submitted to evaluations and monitoring.

Happ insisted an assistant handled the case and she had nothing to do with it. Schimel's campaign accused her of lying after she told a moderator during a debate that Reynolds' case came to her office after the house sale was completed; it actually came to the office while the sale was still pending. Happ said she misspoke.

Schimel also accused Happ of being a liberal activist after she said she wouldn't defend Republican laws requiring abortion providers to obtain admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and mandating voters show photo identification at the polls. Happ called Schimel a GOP robot who would blindly defend any law Republican legislators pass.

Danielle Benden, a 36-year-old University of Wisconsin-Madison archaeologist, said she went with Happ because of her stance on women's reproductive rights.

"She's more progressive in her policies," Benden said. "The pendulum has just swung so far (toward conservatives) on reproductive rights. All those decisions should be made by a person and her family and her doctor. Politics should have no say."

Schimel, 49, holds a law degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has served as a prosecutor in Waukesha County since 1990. He was elected district attorney in 2006.


TREASURER

Republican Matt Adamczyk was elected treasurer, a largely powerless office he promised to work to eliminate. The 36-year-old former legislative staffer says it makes no sense to pay an officeholder $68,000 to fulfill one task — serving on the board of commissioners of public lands, which makes loans to schools and municipalities. He replaces Republican Kurt Schuller, who backed away from similar pledge after his election in 2010.


SECRETARY OF STATE

Democrat Doug La Follette was re-elected Wisconsin secretary of state, defeating Republican challenger Julian Bradley in a surprisingly close race. La Follette has held the office for most of four decades, during which time the licensing of corporations, notary services and most of its other responsibilities were transferred to agencies overseen by the governor. Bradley had said the office needed new energy.


CONGRESS

Conservative Republican Glenn Grothman, known for his outspoken attacks on affirmative action, abortion and welfare benefits, defeated moderate Democrat Mark Harris to win the U.S. House seat vacated by the GOP's Tom Petri in eastern and central Wisconsin. Grothman, 59, has served in the state Senate since 2005, sometimes turning his sharp tongue on members of his own party. Amanda Eskola, a 29-year-old clinical therapist from Cedarburg, said she voted against Grothman because "he's not very personable." But Lori Smith, a 50-year-old food service production manager from Lodi, thought Grothman seemed like an "average Joe" and "would be new blood" in a Congress that needs it.


TRANSPORTATION FUND

Voters approved a constitutional amendment to ensure that money collected from Wisconsin driver's license, vehicle plate and other fees should be used exclusively for road maintenance and construction. Lawmakers proposed the amendment after the Legislature transferred $1.4 billion from the state transportation fund between 2003 and 2011 to pay for schools and other expenses. Some voters worried the amendment would leave lawmakers with little flexibility in tight budget years, but others like Beth Stiennon, a 57-year-old office manager from Madison, said it was "a common sense issue."

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