Dem 51
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A Key State Supreme Court Race Is Coming Up in Wisconsin

U.S. Supreme Court justices don't have to stand for reelection, although quite a few people wish they did. In contrast, in 38 states, the state Supreme Court justices are elected. Wisconsin has such an election coming up, and it is doozy. On Feb. 21, Wisconsin will hold a nonpartisan primary for justice, although early voting has already started. The top two finishers will advance to the April 4 general election. There are four candidates: two conservatives, Daniel Kelly and Jennifer Dorow, and two liberals, Janet Protasiewicz and Everett Mitchell. It is definitely possible that the two conservative could finish 1 and 2 or that the two liberals could finish 1 and 2. But it could also split with the two men being 1 and 2 or the two women being 1 and 2. The Court is currently split between liberals and conservatives 3-3, so this election will determine the majority.

Kelly has served on the Court before (the term is 10 years). He was appointed by Scott Walker to fill vacancy and was defeated for a full term in 2020. He is a member of the Federalist Society. Dorow is currently a circuit judge in Waukesha County. She was also appointed by Walker but won elections on her own in 2012 and 2018. Both are religious conservatives and both got their law degrees from a law school affiliated with a university founded by televangelist Pat Robertson.

Protasiewicz and Mitchell are both circuit judges, like Dorow. Both have won multiple elections to their positions. Both support abortion rights, which is significant, since the state's 1849 abortion law is likely to come before the Court this year. Mitchell is also a pastor at a church in Dane County (Madison). Protasiewicz was a prosecutor in Milwaukee for 26 years. She now supports bail reform. Mitchell is Black. The other three are white.

After Donald Trump lost the 2020 election in Wisconsin, he went to court there. He lost 4-3 when one of the conservatives voted with the three liberals on technical grounds related to when the challenge was filed, although he supported the challenge on the merits of the case. It could easily have gone the other way and could in 2024 as well.

Turnout for a judicial election in Wisconsin in February is likely to be light. Depending on the composition of the Feb. 21 electorate, the balance on the Supreme Court could be set even before the general election in April. A lot hangs on this election. (V)

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