Liberal Judge Janet Protasiewicz and conservative Daniel Kelly will be battling in an April vote to determine the ideology of the Wisconsin state Supreme Court — with implications regarding the future of abortion access, redistricting, and voting rights prior to the 2024 elections in the state of battle.
Conservative judges currently hold an overall majority of 4-3 on the court, however, one judge, Justice Patience Roggensack, is set to retire in the coming year. While Tuesday’s primary as well as the general election on April 4 are not partisan, local and national Democrats have viewed the election as a rare chance to retake supreme court control that conservatives have held for more than a decade.
Protasiewicz Protasiewicz, judge at Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge was able to get an impressive 46 percent votes, followed by Kelly, who was a former state Supreme Court justice, with 24 percent. This was when the Associated Press called the top-two primary contest with an 87 percent turnout. Conservative Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow and liberal Dane County Circuit Judge Everett Mitchell received 22 percent and 7 percent of the votes and 7 percent, respectively.
“I don’t know the way I’ll rule in any situation however throughout this election I’ve been very clear about what my beliefs are,” Protasiewicz said during her winning speech, pointing to her support of the right to vote, access to abortion, and public security.
The winner of the contest will decide the major cases likely to be heard by the court. Democratic governor. Tony Evers and state Attorney General Josh Kaul sued to overturn the more than 100-year-old state law prohibiting all abortions. This case could be a case for the state Supreme Court later this year. The court could also decide on laws governing elections, just as it did in the past.
The race — which was a down-ballot election in the off-year, brought in thousands of dollars. From the start of the year to the primary election, advertising spending was more than $9 million for radio, television, and digital as per AdImpact. The highest advertiser is Fair Courts America, a super PAC that is linked with GOP Megadonor Richard Uihlein, which has contributed about $2.8 million to support Kelly. In the past, the group declared that it would invest “millions in dollars” in Kelly’s presidential campaign.
Just behind Fair Courts America was Protasiewicz who ran a hefty advertising blitz, supported by the $2.3 million investment. Her campaign raised more than $725,000 from the beginning of the year until February. 6 which was more than all her opponents have raised at the same time. The campaign announced that it has raised nearly $2 million since she began the contest in early May, which is a record for a primary candidate in Wisconsin.
A Better Wisconsin Together Political Fund — the same fund which spent nearly four million in the governor’s race in favor of Evers during the last election put up $2.2 million on ads targeting Dorow. Dorow was able to spend more than $600,000 and other groups contributed the remainder of the expenditure.