Politics /

Progressive Wins Wisconsin Supreme Court Race, Creating First Democrat Majority in 15 Years

Record Setting Amount of $42 million was spent in the race

Wisconsin voters upended 15 years of conservative majority rule on the state’s Supreme Court by electing a liberal candidate to the court on April 4.

Janet Protasiewicz, a Milwaukee County judge, defeated incumbent conservative Justice Daniel Kelly — who campaigned as a judicial conservative who would preserve constitutional rights — by 11 points, in a race called just after 9 p.m. with 95 percent of the vote in.

Turnout in the race was historic, breaking a previous record for spring elections that aren’t in the same year as a presidential primary. At least 36 percent of the voting-age population cast a ballot, compared with the previous high of 34 percent in 2011.

The balance of the court is now 4-3, dominated by left-leaning justices.

“Wisconsin’s State Supreme Court election carries bigger policy stakes than any other race in the country this year,” the New York Times wrote on the evening of the election, citing the issues of “abortion rights, gerrymandered political maps and a range of voting rights issues” in Wisconsin.

“It was really about saving our democracy, getting away from extremism and having a fair and impartial court where everybody gets a fair shot in the courtroom,” Protasiewicz told The Associated Press (AP) after her victory. “That’s what it was all about.”

Four of the last six presidential elections in Wisconsin were decided by less than one percentage point, the AP noted, while reminding readers that the current court came within a single vote of overturning President Joe Biden’s win in 2020.

In his concession speech, Kelly scoffed at his opponent, labeling her as dishonest and unworthy of her new role on the state’s highest court.

Kelly told supporters:

Now, this didn’t turn out the way that we were looking for. And I think there are a couple of reasons for it, and I think we need to address them head on. And it brings me no joy to say this. I wish that in a circumstance like this, I would be able to concede to a worthy opponent, but I do not have a worthy opponent to which I can concede.

This was the most deeply deceitful, dishonorable, despicable campaign I have ever seen run for the courts. It was truly beneath contempt. Now, I say this, not because we did not prevail. I do not say this because of the rancid slanders that were launched against me, although that was bad enough. But that is not my concern. My concern is the damage done to the institution of the courts.

My opponent is a serial liar. She’s disregarded judicial ethics. She’s demeaned the judiciary with her behavior. And this is the future that we have to look forward to in Wisconsin.

The high stakes Wisconsin race had more than $42 million in spending, the most expensive judicial election in U.S. history, with the Democratic-backed candidate having a roughly $6 million advantage, ABC News reported.

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