"Huge implications": Wisconsin voters end right-wing Supreme Court control after 15 years

"This election was a sound rejection of MAGA extremism," progressive says

Published April 5, 2023 10:29AM (EDT)

Judge Janet Protasiewicz onstage during the live taping of "Pod Save America," hosted by WisDems at the Barrymore Theater on March 18, 2023 in Madison, Wisconsin.  (Jeff Schear/Getty Images for WisDems)
Judge Janet Protasiewicz onstage during the live taping of "Pod Save America," hosted by WisDems at the Barrymore Theater on March 18, 2023 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Jeff Schear/Getty Images for WisDems)

This article originally appeared at Common Dreams. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.

Wisconsin voters wrested control of the state Supreme Court from conservatives for the first time in 15 years on Tuesday by electing Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz—an outspoken supporter of abortion rights, ballot access, and union protections—to fill an open seat.

Protasiewicz defeated former Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly in the high-stakes and expensive contest, which drew close national attention given its implications for voting rights, reproductive freedoms, worker protections, and more in the key battleground state.

"Judge Protasiewitz's victory is a huge win for protecting Wisconsinites' fundamental freedoms," said Sean Eldridge, founder and president of the progressive advocacy group Stand Up America. "For more than three decades, Judge Protasiewicz has defended Wisconsinites' constitutional rights, maintained judicial independence, and earned recognition for her commitment to the community. She will continue that important work on the Supreme Court."

"Judge Protasiewicz will act as a check on conservative efforts to take away reproductive freedom, disenfranchise voters of color through racial gerrymandering, and overturn election results they don't like. Her victory helps build a firewall for our democracy and the freedom to vote ahead of 2024," Eldridge continued. "This election was a sound rejection of MAGA extremism, including their attacks on the freedom to vote and the right to access abortion care. The people of Wisconsin spoke through the ballot box and their message was undeniable: MAGA extremism has no place on our court, and neither does Dan Kelly."

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Protasiewicz's win puts "the state laws most celebrated by conservatives at risk of being overturned—including a 19th Century-era ban on abortions."

Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, filed a lawsuit over the 1849 abortion ban after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, imperiling abortion rights across the nation.

In her victory speech late Tuesday, Protasiewicz said that "our state is taking a step forward to a better and brighter future where our rights will be protected."

Protasiewicz, whose Supreme Court bid was backed by labor unions, said during the campaign that she believes Act 10—a Wisconsin law backed by former GOP Gov. Scott Walker that gutted public employees' collective bargaining rights—is "unconstitutional."

Kelly's campaign was notably supported by the GOP billionaire megadonors Richard and Elizabeth Uihlein, who have worked to dismantle union rights nationwide.

Dean Warsh, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers' Wisconsin State Conference, said in a statement late Tuesday that "Wisconsin's working families made a clear statement today."

"Our local unions throughout Wisconsin put in the work to turn out every voter possible in this pivotal spring election and we are ready to continue to do what it takes to finally take back our state from the divisive Walker-era politics that have plagued us for far too long," said Warsh. "On behalf of the over 15,000 members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers here in Wisconsin, I congratulate Judge Janet on her win and look forward to what is next for our state and the labor movement."

Ari Berman of Mother Jones noted Tuesday that while Protasiewicz's impact "could be felt quickly" given the abortion rights and gerrymandering cases that are expected to reach the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the near future, "Republicans will likely do everything they can to maintain their dominance in the legislature and have already floated the idea of impeaching Protasiewicz, which could trigger a constitutional crisis in the state."

"A new era for the court is beginning," Berman added, "but the fight over democracy in Wisconsin, with huge implications nationwide, is far from over."

By Jake Johnson

MORE FROM Jake Johnson

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Common Dreams Janet Protasiewicz Politics