Democrats Flip Wisconsin Supreme Court, Gaining Overall Majority

The Democrat-backed candidate defeated her conservative opponent in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election of Wisconsin Tuesday night, giving the left a majority over the body that determines critical issues such as abortion and election integrity.


In a contest that smashed spending records for state judicial elections, Daniel Kelly, a former justice of the state Supreme Court, lost to Janet Protasiewicz, a circuit court judge from Milwaukee County, by approximately 10 points. Her victory marks the end of an era of Republican control in a state that has been embroiled in political strife for over a decade.

With the retirement of conservative Justice Patience Roggensack, the current 4-3 conservative majority in the court is in jeopardy. Wisconsin is one of 14 states where Supreme Court justices are directly elected and are granted 10-year terms upon winning. While judicial races are supposedly nonpartisan, political affiliations are made clear by the support extended to particular candidates by political parties.

The spending in this year’s race has shattered previous records, with the Brennan Center reporting it to have reached $28.8 million as of March 29. The previous record was set during the 2004 Illinois race, with spending amounting to $15.4 million.

Democrats saw the election as a chance to end Republican rule in Wisconsin, which began after Gov. Scott Walker’s victory in 2010. His win was followed by the enactment of laws that weakened unions and the implementation of state legislative districts that favored Republicans. All these decisions were approved by a state Supreme Court that conservatives have controlled since 2008.


The race was also seen as a litmus test for the issue of abortion nearly a year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe vs Wade, which returned the issue back to the states. Over the coming months, Wisconsin’s Supreme Court will resolve a legal dispute over the state’s 1849 statute, which prohibits abortion in almost all situations.

Election integrity was another crucial issue in the election, with the Court poised to play a crucial role in deciding the rules for the 2024 election and resolving any lawsuits or disputes that may follow, as it did in 2020. When President Donald Trump sought to challenge Wisconsin’s results in the 2020 presidential election, the court dismissed his claims after conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn joined the court’s three liberal justices, Last year, the court banned the use of most ballot drop boxes and declared that nobody could return a ballot in person on behalf of another voter.

As RedState columnist Scott Presler warned in a March 28 column (emphasis original):

If we do not elect Justice Daniel Kelly on April 4th, the newly flipped liberal Court will strike down Wisconsin’s current voter ID law. Additionally, proof of residency – which is required to register to vote – will be nullified. Furthermore, unmanned drop boxes, which were deemed illegal by the current conservative Court, will become legal. There will be drop boxes on every street corner in Madison and Milwaukee.

While everyone is loudly debating President Trump versus Governor DeSantis, they should be prioritizing this Wisconsin Supreme Court election. The White House runs through Wisconsin. If liberals flip the Court, it will be that much more difficult to win the White House in 2024. Therefore, it would behoove any conservatives with intentions of making Joe Biden a one-term president to support Justice Daniel Kelly.


Kelly conceded the race Tuesday evening called out his opponent for running a dirty campaign. “I wish in circumstances like this, I would be able to concede to a worthy opponent, but I do not have a worthy opponent,” he said, characterizing Protasiewicz’ campaign “beneath contempt” for launching “rancid slanders.”

Protasiewicz, meanwhile, framed her win as a victory for democracy. “It means that our democracy will always prevail,” she said at her victory night party. “Too many have tried to overturn the will of the people. Today’s result shows that Wisconsinites believe in democracy and the democratic process.” She will be sworn in this summer.


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