Burke quoted Lombardi in conceding: 'It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up.'
Mary Burke had not yet conceded but defeat was in the air when U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin took the stage at the Overture Center Tuesday night.
Baldwin did what she could to buoy the crowd, saying it was "great to be in a room of fired-up progressives." But her own words gave away what everyone in the room was thinking: Republican Gov. Scott Walker was on his way to a second term in office.
No matter what happens, Baldwin said, "the fight for our Wisconsin values goes on. The fight to build our middle class goes on."
"So stay engaged," she continued. "Continue standing together. Tonight we will turn a page. Tomorrow we will get to work writing the next chapter -- the next chapter of Wisconsin's proud progressive tradition."
By 9:20 p.m. ABC News had called the election for Walker. But Joe Zepecki, a Burke spokesman, said the campaign was waiting for returns to come in from Milwaukee and Madison. Just before 10:30 p.m. Burke finally took the stage.
Her delivery was strong and her message upbeat. She picked up Baldwin's theme, starting with a Vince Lombardi quote. "It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get up."
Burke called the last 13 months an "improbable, incredible journey," and said her experience was "nothing short of inspiring" because of the people she met on the campaign trail.
Burke also reiterated the importance of the issues she ran on. "Women's right to make our own decisions regarding our bodies," got perhaps the biggest cheer of the night. She also vowed that "no one should be priced out of an education."
Dane County Board Supv. Carousel Bayrd said the results of the race confirm how divided Wisconsin is.
"But we [in Dane County] have no idea what the rest of the state is thinking," she said. "And they have no idea what we are thinking."
Bayrd says she thinks the economy was the top issue for voters and that it obscured such things as Walker's opposition to abortion even in cases of rape and incest.
"The numbers tell us we're a pro-choice state but people didn't vote thinking about access to women's health."
Despite Tuesday night's defeat, Bayrd said she already had a battle plan for Wednesday: "I'm going to wake up in the morning and fight for our public schools." A mother of two young daughters, Bayrd fears that the state's voucher program could go statewide under Walker.
"It makes me want to fight ever more on a local level," she said.
Bayrd also thinks there has to be a fundamental shift in how people think about elections: "State elections are more important than federal elections."
Christine Henker drove to Burke's election party from her home in Sun Prairie. A Burke volunteer, Henker said she felt her stomach clench when the Capitol came into view.
"I was very hopeful," said Henker, who works at Madison College and is a union member.
She was not prepared for the loss, which coincidentally came on her birthday. And the prospect of another four years of Walker as governor has her contemplating a new home. "Do I even want to stay in Wisconsin?" she wondered.
Her co-worker Rhonda McKinney, who also volunteered for Burke, says that Democrats were not energized for this election like they were for the Walker recall campaign.
"All the energy that was put into the recall really [sapped] people's faith that the system works," said McKinney, who lives in Cottage Grove.
McKinney said the recall left many Democrats with the feeling that "no matter what we do, it will never be enough. We are in a losing battle."
But McKinney is still in the fight. "I'm ready to go. Election 2016. I still have hope."