HomeUS News updateWisconsin Supreme Court race becomes a hot election for 2023

Wisconsin Supreme Court race becomes a hot election for 2023

Voters in Wisconsin have already begun casting ballots in a race that is sure to shape abortion rights in the state and could help decide who wins a key battleground state in the 2024 presidential election .

Tuesday has control of the state Supreme Court — and several important issues are likely to decide the future of the bench for years to come.

Wisconsin’s government is essentially at an impasse on several key issues, with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers is often at loggerheads with the near-supermajority held by Republicans in the state legislature. As a result, the bench has emerged as a decision maker on matters with national implications, including elections and absentee voting.

Although the court is technically nonpartisan, conservatives on the bench hold a 4–3 majority. But with the retirement of conservative Justice Patience Rogensack, that majority now hangs in the balance.

The contest is on pace to be the most expensive state Supreme Court race in Wisconsin history. Candidates and outside groups have already spent more than $6 million, an amount that is likely to exceed the record $10 million spent in 2020, once the general election is held.

Democrats in the state have described this year’s race as the most important anywhere in the country, and have focused their message on pushing for abortion rights and elections – to retain the Senate and overcome a red flag last year. Planned extension of the National Party’s strategy to wave in the House.

Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Ben Wickler said in an interview, “The race for the Wisconsin State Supreme Court will determine the future of democracy in Wisconsin, the freedom to access safe and legal abortion and knowing that your vote will not be thrown away.”

Running in Tuesday’s primary are conservative candidates Jennifer Dorough and Daniel Kelly, and liberal candidates Janet Protasiewicz and Everett Mitchell.

Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Dorough last year presided over the criminal trial of Darrell Brooks, who was convicted of killing six people at the 2021 Waukesha Christmas Parade when he crashed his SUV into the crowd. The case received significant media attention, and Doro announced his candidacy just days after his sentence expired. Kelly is a former state Supreme Court justice who lost her seat in the 2020 election to moderate Jill Karofsky.

Protasiewicz is a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge who has received the endorsement of the Democratic abortion rights group Emily’s List. Michele is a Dane County Circuit Court judge.

Changes to voting laws and rules in Wisconsin may determine who moves to the White House.

Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Ben Wickler

Tuesday’s election will narrow the current field of four to the two top vote-getters, who will advance to the April 4 general election. (Technically this means that two candidates with the same coalition could run against each other in the general election, although Wisconsin politicians think that outcome is unlikely.) The winner of that race would be elected to a 10-year term. is selected for.

The candidates – like the court itself – are non-partisan, but they are able to vary their political allegiance, by taking liberal or conservative positions on various issues and by receiving endorsements by the state’s major political parties.

This year, however, some Republicans in the state have expressed dismay at how liberal candidates have broadcast where they will take sides on hot-button issues — as well as on cases that will, or will, come before the court. is likely to. , Those Republicans say telegraphing judges in this way effectively betrays their ability to hear cases fairly.

“You’re hearing candidates clearly saying, ‘I think we should overturn this law,'” said Brandon Scholz, a Wisconsin-based Republican strategist, which is consistent with what we’ve seen in the judicial races in Wisconsin. Very different.” with any candidate in the race. “If many of these judges have already made up their mind on various issues and matters, then why bother to even hear the matter.”

Abortion has taken center stage in the race. A state law that had banned abortion in nearly all cases since 1849 went back into effect after the US Supreme Court overturned the Roe v. Wade decision last year. The law makes abortion a felony, with doctors performing the procedure facing up to six years in prison and fines of thousands of dollars. It makes an exception only to save the life of the mother – but not for her health or for pregnancy resulting from rape or incest.

Evers, as well as Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, have said they will not enforce the law, and the latter has filed a lawsuit alleging the law is unenforceable. The case is expected to eventually make its way before the state Supreme Court, potentially giving the division bench the power to decide on abortion rights in Wisconsin.

Protasiewicz’s television commercials have focused on her support for abortion rights. One depicts her speaking directly to the camera, saying “I believe in a woman’s freedom to make her own decision on abortion,” while the other features several women supporting “extremists” on the other side of the argument and They raise slogans. Michelle has also vowed to defend a woman’s right to an abortion.

In interviews with local media, Kelly and Doro criticized Protasiewicz for openly suggesting how she would rule on such a case, while refraining from saying how they would rule. However, Dorough has said that the US Supreme Court “got it wrong” on Roe v. Wade and that she agreed with the decision to overturn it. Both candidates have been endorsed by groups opposing abortion rights.

Dorough, for his part, has also been on the receiving end of Kelly’s criticism. While Dorow has said she will support Kelly in the general election if he moves and she does not, Kelly has repeatedly stated that she would not do the same for Dorow, casting doubt about her conservative credentials. doing. The Kelly and Dorough campaigns did not respond to questions from NBC News.

Dorough has described himself in advertisements as “law enforcement’s choice” and has spoken frequently about his oversight of the Brooks trial.

Meanwhile, Kelly, who was endorsed by then-President Donald Trump in his unsuccessful 2020 Supreme Court campaign, has ties to a scheme by former president’s aides to change the 2020 election results through the use of “fake voters”. Designed to reverse. ,

In a statement before the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol, former Wisconsin GOP chairman Andrew Hitt said he and Kelly had “extensive conversations” about that plan, and The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported this week that Kelly was paid $120,000 by the Republican Party at the state and national levels to advise on “election integrity” issues.

The state Supreme Court is highly likely to hear various challenges to existing election laws, as well as cases related to recounts, absentee ballots, and other aspects of election administration that could have a material impact on the outcome of a permanently close election. . battleground states – including the 2024 presidential election.

For example, in a 4-3 decision last year, the state Supreme Court ruled illegal all ballot drop boxes outside election clerks’ offices — a blow to Democrats in the state, who have issued more liberal rules regarding the boxes. advocated keeping that which arose during the epidemic. Two years ago, the court narrowly upheld the 2020 election results in the state with a 4-3 vote. Democrats predict similar cases in the future.

“Changes in the voting laws and rules in Wisconsin could determine who gets to the White House,” Wichler said.

Other issues that came before the state Supreme Court in the coming years included challenges to Act 10, a law enacted by then-Republican Gov. Scott Walker who ended collective bargaining for most public employees. It can also hear cases on redrawn legislative maps (the current map, which experts have said is one of the most undrafted in the country, was approved last year by the current state Supreme Court). As in many states, in Wisconsin, if the governor and legislature cannot agree on legislative maps, the matter goes to the state Supreme Court.

In a candidate forum last month, Protasiewicz slammed the maps as “rigged”. Dorough declined to discuss the maps, citing the possibility that the issue would again come before the court, while Kelly said on stage that he would rely only on “legal” arguments in determining future maps.

Brian Shimming, chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, has said that while Protasiewicz was “remarkably and aggressively public about indicating how she would rule on the bench,” in cases like this, he predicted that such comments would backfire. would help turn out Republican voters.

“What comes out of this is a lot of energy on our side,” he said in an interview, adding that those comments made it clear that “there are 25 years of conservative reform on the ballot in April”.

It’s a stark contrast to what he and others predicted would turn out to voters in an off-year, down-ballot, springtime election.

Scholz, the GOP strategist, said “the majority could change,” noting that Democrats haven’t held a majority on the benches for 15 years. “That’s it for all marbles.”



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