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Editorial: Supreme Court race only opening round of in-state politics

By: Associated Press//April 12, 2023//

Editorial: Supreme Court race only opening round of in-state politics

By: Associated Press//April 12, 2023//

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(John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

In an historic and high-spending race for control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz crushed former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly.

Protasiewicz garnered more than a million votes compared to Kelly’s 818,000 – a margin of 55.5% to 44.5%.

The vote gave liberal justices a slim 4-3 majority on the state’s high court as it faces a lineup of cases that include abortion rights, redistricting and state election rules in the months ahead.

It marks the first time the court will have a liberal bent in 15 years and Democrats were celebrating the opportunity on election night. Protasiewicz made abortion rights the centerpiece of her campaign, implying to voters that she will overturn Wisconsin’s near-total ban on abortion after the state’s 1849 ban kicked in when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.

Kelly was backed by pro-life groups.

If ideologies of the two candidates were striking, so was the spending in this race. News reports said spending on the race topped $45 million, three times the previous record for spending on a state judicial race.

But if Democrats were giddy over the Supreme Court swing, they might want to temper that with a look at the 8th Senate District where Rep. Dan Knodl, R-Germantown, narrowly defeated Democrat Jodi Habush Sinykin. Knodl’s win gives Republicans a supermajority in the state Senate – 22 seats in the 33-member body.

And that gives Republican senators the ability to impeach and remove “civil officers” without input from Democrats, if the state Assembly also votes to do so.

Knodl, who supported false claims that Trump won the 2020 election and signed a letter asking Vice President Mike Pence to not certify Wisconsin’s vote, said during his campaign he would “certainly consider” impeaching Protasiewicz and other judges for being weak on crime. Presumably that would apply only to her job as a Milwaukee County judge – and not to her new post on the Supreme Court which she will assume this summer.

That’s the real political landscape that Wisconsin faces in the months ahead – bitter, rancorous, brass-knuckle battles between the state’s two parties – no matter the results of Tuesday’s Democrat win.

For evidence, we have only to point to Kelly’s “concession speech” in which he said, “I wish that in circumstances 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.

“My opponent is a serial liar. She’s disregarded judicial ethics; she’s demeaned the judiciary with her behavior. This is the future that we have to look forward to in Wisconsin. I wish Wisconsin the best of luck, because I think it’s going to need it.”

The election may have reshaped the makeup of the state Supreme Court, but it also kicked up some dust and triggered a whole new round of political battles.

Buckle up, Wisconsin.

— From the Kenosha News


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