Last night Wisconsin voters turned the ideological balance of the their state’s Supreme Court, handing Democrats in the state, and potentially nationally, a major victory.
Thanks to the retirement of Republican Justice Patience Roggensack, the GOP’s slim 4-3 advantage was on the line in this highly-watched contest. Democratic-backed Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz and Republican-backed former Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly each advanced to this run-off after finishing in the top two during the February 21st primary.
With an estimated 97% of the total in, Protasiewicz is out in front with 1,021,404 votes (55.52%) against Kelly’s 818,300 votes (44.48%).
In an especially closely contested state like Wisconsin, that’s an overwhelming victory. It’s also quite close to the margin Justice Jill Karofsky won against Kelly back in April 2020, indicating Kelly may be a particularly weak statewide candidate.
The top issue in this campaign was undoubtedly abortion. Since the Dobbs decision overturned Roe last year, Wisconsin reverted back to a 1849 ban – and with the state’s Democratic Governor and Attorney General currently challenging that law – the Wisconsin Supreme Court would likely decide the case.
On top of that, this contest is sure to produce significant national political consequences as well. For instance, Wisconsin’s Republican legislature drew an incredibly friendly Congressional map that gives the party a 6-2 advantage. During one debate, Protasiewicz went so far as to call it a “rigged” map. Now, the Democratic Court could potentially throw out that map and draw one that would give Dems two additional seats. At a time when Republicans hold just a five seat majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, that pair of seats could make all the difference in 2024.
Speaking of 2024, it’s worth pointing out that in Dec. 2020, the Wisconsin Supreme Court rejected Donald Trump’s bid to throw out thousands of votes by a 4-3 decision. Retiring Justice Roggensack was the lone Republican to cross party lines, so a GOP victory would’ve hung over Democratic heads like a Sword of Damocles throughout the 2024 race.
The main takeaway, however, remains the Dobbs Effect and the conundrum tonight’s results present for Republicans ahead of 2024. After all, it’s tough to see how the GOP can deny Joe Biden a second term if they can’t win Wisconsin next November.
Chicago, Trump and What’s Ahead
Across the state border in Chicago, progressives scored another major victory as Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson defeated Chicago Public Schools CEO Paul Vallas. Johnson is a proud liberal who flirted with the Defund the Police movement in 2020, while Vallas is a rich centrist who flirted with Republicans. In the end, it appears that the support of some crucial Black and Hispanic establishment figures allowed Johnson to cobble together a winning coalition.
With some mail-in ballots still to be counted, Johnson is ahead with 286,647 votes (51.42%) while Vallas sits at 270,775 votes (48.58%).
Finally, of course, yesterday we saw Donald Trump’s arrangement in Manhattan, and the revelation that he is facing 34 felony counts. In terms of how this trial will impact the 2024 Presidential race, the next hearing is set for December 4th with the prosecution aiming for a January 2024 start. All the while, the Republican Iowa Caucus is currently scheduled for February 5th, 2024.
We’re now in an unprecedented and unpredictable situation, as a party’s Presidential front-runner faces at least one (and up to four) criminal trials in the midst of their campaign. The end result of that is anyone’s guess.
We’ll have more on all this next week.
As for the 2023 elections, Philadelphia’s Democratic Mayoral Primary is on May 16th, and Kentucky’s primaries are on that same night. Stay tuned for coverage of all of that and more!