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Janet Protasiewicz Wins Wisconsin Supreme Court Race, Tilts Balance To 'Good'
Tuesday was a great day in America. Donald Trump was arrested in his former home town, andJudge Janet Protasiewicz won the Wisconsin state supreme court election, flipping the entire body to a four-to-three liberal majority. This is a huge, earth-shattering development. A liberal supreme court will most likely reverse the state's pre-Civil War abortion ban that went into effect after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Abortion providers hadstopped offering abortion services, leaving Wisconsin residents with no access to reproductive health care.
You could tell Wisconsin Republicans were running scared when just a few weeks ago they suddenly unveiled a modified abortion ban bill that would grant exceptions for rape and incest and maybe the health of the mother. Voters weren't fooled, though. They knew what was at stake.
Protasiewicz, a Milwaukee County judge, defeated professional Supreme Court race loser Dan Kelly. This is the former justice's second swing and miss. As of this writing, Protasiewicz led Kelly, a far-right extremist, by 14 points. That margin will narrow as all the rural votes are counted, but the end result is still an ass-whooping.
Kelly conceded, albeit in a notably dick way. "It brings me no joy to say this: I wish that in a circumstance like this, I would be able to concede to a worthy opponent. But I do not have a worthy opponent to which I can concede," he said. Firstly, Mr. Judge Kelly, it is "to whom." Secondly, well, if wishes were horses, Dan Kelly would not be an extremist who just lost by (for now!) near-Reagan-Mondale-style numbers. He did a poor job, and apparently nobody likes him.
Wisconsin is a swing state, and Kelly got clobbered in every swing district. Extremism doesn't sell.
“Here is a county guide for the court race on Tuesday. As county results come in, compare them to this chart. Bottom line: Kelly needs numbers close to Hagedorn 2019, not Kelly 2020. Note that Kelly lost all but 1 of the "purplish" counties, while Hagedorn won them all.”
— joe handrick (@joe handrick) 1680132482
More than $40 million was spent on this race — the most for any judicial election in history, and with all the national press coverage, you'd think Wisconsinites were picking a governor. But the state supreme court arguably has far more power, especially after Wisconsin Republicans voted to restrict the authority of Gov. Tony Evers on account of Democrat. Yeah, these guys don't even pretend to play fair. They're Scorsese gangsters, not Coppola's.
Republicans had rigged the system so that voting against them had limited impact. In 2018, a wave election for Democrats, former Republican Gov. Scott Walker lost re-election by a single point but carried 63 of 99 Assembly districts. Republicans had further pressed their advantage when redrawing the maps in 2021. Wisconsin Watch explained how in 2022, voters in majority Democratic Sheboygan had no chance of electing a Democratic to legislative office. Republicans had cleaved Sheboygan in two Assembly districts, each with more voters from majority red Sheboygan and Manitowoc counties.
But there's relief now: The Wisconsin supreme court has the final say over statehouse redistricting disputes. There's no guarantee that redrawn maps would help Democrats win a legislative majority, but while I'm no basketball star, I'd have a better chance at scoring a three pointer if I weren't fitted with concrete shoes. Without gerrymandering, Democrats have won statewide in the 2018 and 2022 governor's races, the 2018 Senate race, and the 2020 presidential race. Yet, the congressional map has six seats that lean Republican to just two that lean Democratic. Wisconsin is a purple state, not the electoral Tennessee that Republicans have crafted for themselves.
Although Kelly probably scared away a lot of swing voters, Protasiewicz ran a smart campaign that might've prevailed over a "normal" conservative candidate (if they still exist). She didn't pretend that she was some objective referee calling balls and strikes. She didn't downplay the stakes. She made it clear where she stood on abortion and voting rights. People might object and consider it "unbecoming" of a judge, but it's well past time we stopped pretending the courts aren't political.
These campaign tactics paid off. This race had epic turnout, especially from young people who want to maintain control over their own bodies and cast votes that actually matter. Voters at a recent Democratic campaign event showed a clear understanding of the race.
"Two main things," said Ariel Hendrickson of Madison, who was first in line for the show on the sidewalk outside. "Abortion rights and making sure that gerrymandering does not get any worse in our state." [ ... ]
"I know people keep saying this, but this is probably one of the most important elections for Wisconsin, especially because reproductive rights are on the line," [Sheila Hosseini of Madison] said.
Cailin O'Connor described herself as a big supporter of Democrats, saying she'd been canvasing to get out the vote for Protasiewicz earlier that day.
"It gives us a chance to get past our gerrymandered districts," O'Connor said. "And hopefully it can get us to a point where we could actually have reproductive rights in the state again."
Protasiewicz will serve a 10-year term, and liberals will hold the majority through 2025 when another liberal justice's term expires.
Much props as always to the Wisconsin Democratic Party, which continues to punch above its weight class. Enjoy all the champagne. You deserve it.
[ New York Times ]
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