April 6, 2023

Wisconsin Supreme Court

A Democratic-backed Milwaukee judge won the high stakes Wisconsin Supreme Court race Tuesday, ensuring liberals will take over majority control of the court for the first time in 15 years with the fate of the state’s abortion ban on the line. Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz, 60, defeated former Justice Dan Kelly.”  AP News

Here’s our prior coverage of the election. The Flip Side

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From the Left

The left is encouraged by Protasiewicz’s victory, and praises her progressive campaign.

"Polls have shown that in Wisconsin, about 60 percent of people believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases; this figure has stayed relatively consistent over the past decade. This means not only that abortion is a winning political issue in Wisconsin but also that the current Wisconsin abortion ban, which has been kept in place by the Republican-held Legislature, is far removed from what actual Wisconsin voters want…

“Yet, under the current gerrymandered legislative map—the most partisan-biased, least democratic map in the country—it would be nearly impossible for Wisconsinites in the majority to change the balance of power such that the ban might be repealed. Voting for a candidate who clearly stated her position on these issues—such as Protasiewicz—was the only way for the voters of Wisconsin to have a say in who their elected representatives would be and whether they would retain any reproductive rights.”

Christina Cauterucci, Slate

“Kelly paid lip service during the campaign to the ‘rule of law,’ but he has left little doubt that he is a right-wing champion, not a neutral jurist. He provided legal advice to the state GOP on the phony elector scheme and worked for antiabortion activists. His application to former governor Scott Walker ‘included a writing sample that likened affirmative action to slavery,’ Wisconsin Public Radio reported. No one could be confused about his ideological bent

“It’s time to recognize that our courts were long ago politicized. Candor about judges’ views at least respects the intelligence of those putting them on the bench… If voters overwhelmingly elect judges such as Protasiewicz who clearly articulate their values while vowing to consider each case on its merits, then we are witnessing something far too rare: informed democracy…

“When everyone lays their cards on the table, it turns out that an honest appraisal of judicial philosophies overwhelmingly benefits Democrats.”

Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post

“One might surmise that a pro-choice message motivated educated suburbanites to swamp non-college-educated White turnout, without Protasiewicz improving among that latter demographic. But [the director of Wisconsin’s Marquette Law School Poll] noted that she did surprisingly well in ‘rural and working-class areas’ in southwestern counties that Trump carried twice, and made ‘inroads in rural counties up the Mississippi River.’…

“All this has important forward-looking implications… If messaging about defending abortion rights and democracy commanded a sizable majority in this highly polarized, blue collar-heavy swing state, it may well continue constituting Kryptonite to MAGA — all the way through 2024.”

Greg Sargent, Washington Post

From the Right

The right is disappointed by Protasiewicz’s victory, and blames Wisconsin Republicans for the loss.

The right is disappointed by Protasiewicz’s victory, and blames Wisconsin Republicans for the loss.

“[Protasiewicz’s] major issue was abortion, especially the fate of an 1849 state statute that became law after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The law bans abortion in nearly all cases. Republicans who control the state Legislature helped her cause by failing to amend the law… The Wisconsin results show abortion is still politically potent. In a special election for the state Senate on Tuesday, the Republican candidate barely won in a longtime GOP stronghold in the northern Milwaukee suburbs…

Republicans had better get their abortion position straight, and more in line with where voters are or they will face another disappointment in 2024. A total ban is a loser in swing states. Republicans who insist on that position could soon find that electoral defeats will lead to even more liberal state abortion laws than under Roe. That’s where Michigan is now after last year’s rout.”

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“Kelly had worked with the Trump campaign after the 2020 election on the ‘stop the steal’ legal efforts… It seems pretty clear that Wisconsin voters held it against Kelly. Republicans don’t lose statewide races by ten points in Wisconsin, not with the kind of funding Kelly got, not unless they’re particularly unpalatable. Kelly wasn’t even competitive against Protasiewicz, a very bad development in a battleground state for Republicans if it’s not about Kelly specifically…

“At least in this battleground state, the conclusion should be that voters have tired of ‘stop the steal’ activists and the relentless focus on Trump. Kelly didn’t even get a rally effect from Trump’s indictment in the end, one should notice. If this was a one-off, it could be ignored, but it’s not. ‘Stop the steal’ candidates lost across the board in the midterms last year, costing Republicans a handful of winnable Senate seats in other battleground states.”

Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

The Wisconsin GOP has a loser problem. After nominating a weak, no-name, Trump-backed candidate for governor instead of Rebecca Kleefisch (Scott Walker’s lieutenant governor, who was endorsed by nearly every conservative politician in the state), it lost the 2022 election to Governor Tony Evers in what should have been a strong year for Republicans. Kelly was previously appointed to the supreme court by Walker to finish the term of a departed justice. When he first came up for election in 2020, he lost by eleven points…

“Conservatives had an alternative in the primary in Jennifer Dorow, the Waukesha County judge who presided over the trial of the man who killed six people with his vehicle in the city of Waukesha’s Christmas parade in 2021. But they went with Kelly, who again lost convincingly.”

Dominic Pino, National Review

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