MADISON, Wis. -

A Democratic candidate has declared victory in a very close race for state Senate.

Former Department of Transportation Budget Director Ernie Wittwer released a statement late Tuesday saying the "results are in and we are thrilled we can declare victory" in the Democratic primary for the 17th state Senate district.

Wittwer faced former Sen. Russ Feingold aide Pat Bomhack in the race, and as of election night, only two votes separated the two.

Counties were certifying election results through canvass Tuesday and eight of nine have released their final numbers. Adding those and the preliminary results from Juneau County, who hasn't finished its canvass but doesn't expect changes, Wittwer will beat Bomhack by just seven votes in the 17th district.

This race was expected to be close all along, but created some divisions in the party. Party leadership, including Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson, D-Milwaukee, and Sen. Mark Miller, D-Monona, endorsed Bomhack in the race over Wittwer, although Wittwer was in the race early.

The Republican candidate for the seat, Rep. Howard Marklein, R-Spring Green, already has a significant fundraising advantage over either candidate in the race.

In his statement, Wittwer noted that it was time for Democrats to unite and spend the next 77 days focusing on their Republican opponent, saying "we simply do not have any time to waste."

Bomhack declined comment on whether he may request a recount until the canvass is certified from Juneau County.