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Wisconsin Supreme Court contenders David Prosser and JoAnne Kloppenburg prep for possible recount

Donna Deuster, the assistant city clerk in Racine, Wis., verifies security tags on sealed bags of ballots cast in the city, in the County Clerk's office in the Racine County Courthouse, April 6, 2011. AP Photo/Journal Times, Mark Hertzberg

With the dramatic race for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court potentially headed for a recount, the two contenders are putting together legal teams that know a thing or two about recounts.

Justice David Prosser, backed by conservatives in the state, has hired a lawyer who served as counsel to former President George W. Bush during the 2000 Florida recount, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Prosser's challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg, backed by Wisconsin liberals, has retained the services of an attorney who handled the 2010 Senate recount fight for Democratic Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota.

It's unusual for a challenger to mount a competitive campaign against an incumbent in a state Supreme Court race. This election, however, became heated when activists and Wisconsin residents made it a proxy battle for the larger fight between conservatives and liberals in the state over workers' rights and benefits.

Liberals declared victory earlier in the week when initial vote tallies showed Kloppenburg with a razor-thin lead. But in a surprising turn of events, Prosser surged ahead with a 7,500-vote lead on Thursday after a clerk from a predominantly GOP county announced she had incorrectly entered vote totals.

Under state law, a candidate can request a recount free of charge if the spread between votes is less than one half of 1 percent. The new votes could give Prosser a strong enough lead to deny Kloppenburg

the opportunity to request a free recount. She could, though, request a recount at an expense of $5 per ward if the margin of victory falls between one half of 1 percent and 2 percent of the vote. Election officials are still in the process of tallying the final, official vote.

Kloppenburg's campaign manager Melissa Mulliken declined to say whether Kloppenburg will request a recount, the Journal Sentinel reports. However, she did say the campaign is filing open records requests for all documentation relating to the election results reporting in the county in question.

If she does decide to challenge the official election results, Kloppenburg will have the assistance of Marc Elias, who handled Franken's successful recount battle in Minnesota and whose firm has ties to the Obama administration.

Prosser is aided by Mr. Bush's former lawyer, Ben Ginsberg.