On Tuesday, Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz emerged victorious in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race against former Justice Dan Kelly, marking the first time in 15 years that liberals will have majority control of the court. The outcome of the race was heavily influenced by the issue of abortion, which has been a key concern for Democrats in this critical swing state.
The new court, which is now controlled by liberals with a 4-3 majority, is expected to make a crucial decision on a pending lawsuit challenging Wisconsin’s 1849 law banning abortion, which was enacted just a year after the statehood. While Protasiewicz supports abortion rights, she has not yet indicated how she would rule on the lawsuit.
The implications of Protasiewicz’s win are far-reaching and are expected to impact the future of Republican-drawn legislative maps, voting rights, and years of other GOP policies. Additionally, it guarantees that liberals will have a majority in the court leading up to the 2024 presidential election and immediately after.
The court played a crucial role in the 2020 US presidential election when Donald Trump turned to it in his unsuccessful push to overturn his roughly 21,000-vote loss in the state. The current court, which had a 4-3 conservative majority, came within one vote of overturning President Joe Biden’s win in the state in 2020, and both major parties are preparing for another close race in 2024.
During the campaign, Protasiewicz and her allies, which included an array of abortion rights groups such as Planned Parenthood, made abortion rights a focal point of much of her advertising and messaging to voters. However, Protasiewicz has since tried to downplay the significance of abortion as an issue in her victory, emphasizing that it was about saving democracy, steering away from extremism, and having a fair and impartial court.
Kelly, on the other hand, expressed opposition to abortion in the past and had done legal work for Wisconsin Right to Life. He was endorsed by the state’s top three anti-abortion groups, while Protasiewicz was backed by abortion rights advocates. Kelly tried to distance himself from his work for Republicans, saying it was “irrelevant” to how he would work as a justice. He tried to make the campaign about Protasiewicz’s record as a judge, arguing that she was soft on crime and accusing her of being “bought and paid for” by Democrats.
Protasiewicz’s victory in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race is a significant milestone for Democrats, as it provides them with majority control of the court for the first time in 15 years. While abortion played a crucial role in the outcome of the race, Protasiewicz has emphasized that her victory was about ensuring a fair and impartial court, steering away from extremism and preserving democracy. Her win is expected to have far-reaching implications for the future of Republican-drawn legislative maps, voting rights, and GOP policies in the state.