The Wall Street Journal editorial board sent a “five-alarm warning” to the Republican Party Wednesday after conservative candidate Justice Daniel Kelly lost Wisconsin’s Supreme Court election to liberal candidate Judge Janet Protasiewicz on Tuesday.
Protasiewicz won by 10% in the most expensive state Supreme Court race since 2004 in Illinois, tripling the national record with over $42 million in spending, and flipping the conservative ideology of the court. The election served as another victory for the Democrats, indicating that the swing state will vote blue in 2024, according to the WSJ editorial board.
Kelly, appointed to the state Supreme Court in 2016 by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, appealed to former President Donald Trump’s base in Wisconsin, according to the WSJ editorial board. The conservative justice had previously lost his seat on the bench in 2020 to liberal Judge Jill Karofsky.
Protasiewicz, who said she “embraces” the progressive label, ran an overtly political campaign in a nonpartisan state Supreme Court race, more along the lines of a campaign for the governor’s office, according to the WSJ. She called Wisconsin’s legislative maps “rigged,” said Act 10, which limits union bargaining, was unconstitutional and criticized the state’s 1849 abortion ban, indicating how she might rule in related cases.
“She’s making it really clear that she intends to be a politician who simply dresses up like a judge,” Kelly previously told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The judge focused her campaign largely on abortion, hammering Wisconsin’s near outright abortion ban that Republicans would not amend, according to the WSJ editorial board. Protasiewicz’ victory proves that abortion is still front of mind for voters and could be a determining factor in 2024, according to the WSJ editorial board.
The Republicans must shift their pro-life policies, as an outright abortion ban is not popular among voters in swing states, the WSJ editorial board argued. The abortion issue could result in another GOP loss in the 2024 presidential election if they don’t lessen their restrictions.
The seat became vacant when conservative Justice Patience Roggensack retired, which left the 4 – 3 conservative majority of the court vulnerable. The court’s shift towards the left could determine how the bench might rule in cases involving abortion, crime, legislative maps and other contentious topics.
Protasiewicz’ campaign was heavily funded by the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, which gave the judge $8.7 million in the reporting period prior to her victory. In the same time frame, the party received $1 million in donations from both George Soros and Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, as well as $12,000 from Democratic Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California.
“When you receive that kind of money from a political party, the implications are unmistakable: you are an adjunct of that political party,” Kelly previously told the DCNF.
The Wisconsin GOP donated just under $500,000 to Kelly’s campaign in the same reporting period, with the majority being in-kind donations, and only $33,657 in monetary donations. Since March 20, Protasiewicz spent nearly $12 million, while Kelly spent only $2.2 million.
Another midwestern state also saw a major left-wing victory, with progressive Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson beating the more moderate Democrat Paul Vallas, who was frequently likened to a Republican, in Chicago’s mayoral election. The race largely hinged on Chicago’s growing crime crisis, which many attribute to Mayor Lori Lightfoot.
Vallas, who was leading in most polls up until election day, ran on a pro-law enforcement platform, whereas Johnson previously advocated for defunding the police. Johnson believes that bolstering social programs will combat Chicago’s crime problem, and that increasing the number of police officers is not the answer, according to the WSJ editorial board.
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