MADISON, Wisconsin (Reuters) - A Wisconsin Supreme Court judge claimed victory on Monday in a tight local election widely viewed as a referendum on a hotly contested measure curbing the power of unions.
Incumbent Justice David Prosser said the tally from the April 6 election showed him beating challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg, by 7,316 votes -- a margin of just below 0.5 percent of the almost 1.5 million votes cast.
Prosser, a former Republican legislator, said "powerful forces, not always clearly identified" tried to turn the election into a referendum on Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, a Republican who pushed for and signed the anti-union bill.
"Fortunately, Wisconsin voters rejected this effort," Prosser told reporters. "They ultimately understood that this election was about filling a 10-year term on the Supreme Court of Wisconsin and that candidates for the office should not commit themselves, directly or indirectly, on cases that have not yet come before the court."
Wisconsin's law that sharply curbs collective bargaining rights and threatens unions has been challenged in state court, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court could eventually decide its fate. Prosser provides the seven-member court a majority of four conservatives against three liberals.
The polarizing law sparked raucous demonstrations in state capitals in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and other Republican-led states enacting similar measures.
Prosser's aides urged there be no expensive recount of the vote, though the slim margin would allow Kloppenburg to request one paid for by the state.
The day after the election, Kloppenburg was leading in the vote count and claimed victory. But a local official subsequently discovered 14,000 uncounted votes, which overturned the result and provided Prosser's victory margin.
(Reporting by Jeff Mayers; Writing by Andrew Stern; Editing by Greg McCune)