MILWAUKEE, Wis. – Democrats have scored a significant off-year election victory in Wisconsin, successful the state’s open supreme court docket seat and flipping management of the court docket to liberals for the primary time in 15 years.
Milwaukee County Choose Janet Protasiewicz received the hotly contested race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court docket, in response to a race name by The Related Press, defeating former state Supreme Court docket Justice Dan Kelly. Spending within the marketing campaign shattered the earlier nationwide report for a state supreme court docket election.
The win by Protasiewicz comes at a pivotal time for the court docket, and for the Democratic voters who carried her to workplace. Justices are all however sure to listen to a problem to Wisconsin’s pre-Civil Struggle abortion ban, and with a liberal majority, they’re more likely to contemplate a lawsuit that might overturn Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn legislative maps.
Barring the surprising, the victory additionally assures that liberals will maintain a majority on the court docket forward of subsequent yr’s presidential election, when Wisconsin — the perennial swing state — is predicted to once more be pivotal within the race for the White Home. If election lawsuits are filed in state court docket, Protasiewicz will likely be one of many seven justices who’ve the ultimate say.
Democrats’ excessive hopes
Ought to the court docket redraw the maps and provides Democrats a greater likelihood of successful races for the legislature, they hope they may lastly push the state’s political trajectory to the left. The court docket may additionally probably redraw Wisconsin’s congressional map, the place Republicans at present maintain six out of eight U.S Home seats in an in any other case 50-50 state.
Protasiewicz was born and raised on Milwaukee’s south facet, spending 25 years as a prosecutor within the Milwaukee County District Lawyer’s workplace and a lot of the final decade as a decide.
Whereas she by no means promised to rule a method or one other on instances that come earlier than the Supreme Court docket, Protasiewicz was particularly open about her politics through the marketing campaign. On the difficulty of abortion, she mentioned she believed girls have a proper to decide on. When it got here to redistricting, she known as the state’s Republican-drawn legislative maps “rigged.”
Her marketing campaign additionally relied greater than any in historical past on the Democratic Social gathering of Wisconsin’s monetary assist, a lot in order that Protasiewicz vowed to recuse herself from instances involving the state get together as soon as she takes workplace.
Kelly’s loss and the cash
Kelly downplayed his political opinions, however he introduced an extended Republican resume to the race. He was initially appointed to the court docket by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker in 2016. Most of Kelly’s profession was spent as an legal professional. In 2012, he defended Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn legislative maps in federal court docket. In 2020, after Kelly misplaced his first election, he returned to personal observe, the place his purchasers included each the state and nationwide Republican events.
Kelly’s largest monetary backers included Wisconsin Producers and Commerce and a bunch known as Honest Courts America, which is funded by GOP megadonor Richard Uihlein. Collectively, they spent greater than $10 million on adverts criticizing sentences handed down by Protasiewicz as a decide in Milwaukee County.
Whereas cash from Kelly and conservative teams got here in heavy through the closing weeks of the marketing campaign, Protasiewicz was capable of counter with a fundraising haul that was beforehand unprecedented in a judicial race, elevating greater than $14 million this yr. The majority of that cash got here in transfers from the state Democratic Social gathering.
The race shattered the earlier nationwide report for spending in a state Supreme Court docket race. Based on the Brennan Heart for Justice, the outdated report of $15.2 million was set in a 2004 race for the Illinois Supreme Court docket. Based on the middle’s monitoring, almost $29 million had been spent on political adverts in Wisconsin’s race. One other working tally by the Wisconsin political information website WisPolitics discovered whole spending on the race had hit $45 million.
Protasiewicz will take workplace on Aug. 1 for a time period that runs till 2033. Barring the surprising, the subsequent likelihood conservatives should flip the court docket again will likely be in 2025.