Hey, Wisconsin, Time To Start Flipping Your State Supreme Court!

The battle for the Wisconsin Supreme Court begins today! Conservative Justice Patience Roggensack is retiring to spend more time in Thomas Hardy novels, and the court's four-to-three conservative majority hangs in the balance. The technically but not really non-partisan election kicks off with today's free-for-all primary that includes four candidates — liberals Janet Protasiewicz and Everett Mitchell, and conservatives Dan Kelly and Jennifer Dorow.


Can Liberals Claim Wisconsin Supreme Court Majority? God, We Hope So!

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If you're a Wisconsin resident, go vote! If you don't live in Wisconsin but know someone who does, text them GO VOTE! until they finally respond, "I already did! Enough already, MOM."

According to Ben Wikler, chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, "The Wisconsin state Supreme Court race will determine the future of democracy in Wisconsin, the freedom to access safe and legal abortions and knowing that your vote won’t be thrown out."

Wikler adds that the Supreme Court's rulings on changes in Wisconsin's voting laws and rules could determine who wins the 2024 presidential election.

That all sounds important, so go vote!

Protasiewicz is a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge who boasts an endorsement from abortion rights group Emily's List. Mitchell is a Dane County Circuit Court judge. They are both decent and normal.

Dorow is a Waukesha County Circuit Court judge who presided last year over the criminal trial of Darrell Brooks, the convicted killer of six people at a Waukesha Christmas parade in 2021. The case received significant media attention, which Dorow leveraged for her own spin-off project, announcing her candidacy just days after Brooks was sentenced. She's gibbered on about calling "balls and strikes" as a judicial conservative. You almost prefer the honesty of outright partisan hacks.

Kelly, a former state Supreme Court justice, lost his seat in a 2020 election to liberal Jill Karofsky. Media Matters has detailed Kelly's "extreme anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ positions as well as his association with election denial groups[.]"

Fortunately, while Democrats are actually paying attention to this high-stakes race, Republicans are the ones in apparent disarray. Kelly is a proven loser, so it was believed that Dorow was more electable. However, Kelly and his allies are plunging knives into Dorow, and Republicans fear she'll either bleed out in the primary or hobble to a possible loss in April.

Charlie Sykes writes at The Bulwark:

Check out this flyer, which attacks conservative Dorow for wanting to end cash bail. “Instead of keeping us safe, Jennifer Dorow BAILED OUT on Wisconsin,” it declares, citing statements suggesting that she supported eliminating cash bail. The mailer is paid for by a shadowy conservative group called “Safe Families Wisconsin,” and has a return address from Chicago, Illinois.

Appeals Court Judge Shelley Grogan, a vocal Kelly supporter, recently overturned one of Dorow’s decisions in a drunk driving case, leading to accusations from rightwing talk show host Mark Belling that Grogan called fellow Kelly-stans to "mock" Dorow and "crow" about her ruling. This is almost as entertaining as OG "Law & Order."

"Did Grogan overturn Dorow just so she could rip her?" Belling wrote. "Is it ethical for an appellate judge to use her own ruling to score political points against another judge? No one really knows, because no one can think of another appellate judge who has done it."

Today’s election will reduce the current field "Bachelor"-style to the top vote-getters, who'll advance to the general election on April 4. Theoretically, two conservatives and two liberals could run directly against each other, but the smart pundits say that's unlikely. The winner of that race is elected to a 10-year term.

State Republicans are sweating that Dorow, who's getting hammered from both her left and right, will lose to Kelly, whom Democrats consider easier to beat. This is the same state that re-elected Ron Johnson, so voters should take nothing for granted. Go vote!

[NBC News / Bulwark]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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