It’s all on the line in 2023

Wisconsin Supreme Court spring election: The most consequential race in America

If we were to sum up the recent November election in one word, a proper description might be a ‘tie’.  Conservatives by-in-large failed to get their much anticipated ‘red wave’.  Wisconsin Republicans picked up a few legislative seats and retained Ron Johnson’s U.S. Senate seat but failed to knock off Governor Evers and AG Josh Kaul.  The only real change of power came at the hands of the U.S. House of Representative with an underwhelming GOP flip of one chamber of congress.  By all practical accounts and after all the television ads, political spending and volunteer hours by both sides, we ended up in a push. 

It is no secret that presidential elections draw tremendous interest.  Every sensible American can name the President of the United States and has some familiarity with at least a few candidates.  Mid-terms have notably less interest, and far-far behind are the sleeper of all races…spring non-partisan elections.

Don’t be caught flat-footed this year.  The 2023 spring election for the open Wisconsin Supreme Court justice will be the most consequential election in the United States in regards to your freedoms.  Here’s why.

Wisconsin’s Supreme Court has a slim 5-4 conservative majority.  Conservative Justice Patience Roggensack’s retirement creates an open seat.  Control of the state’s highest court and one of three co-equal branch of power is up for grabs (the others being the legislature and executive branches). 

Liberals haven’t controlled the WI Supreme Court in over a decade.  During the Scott Walker era, this meant the GOP-controlled legislature, a Republican Governor and Attorney General could ‘go big’ with a host of conservative reforms including voter ID, concealed carry and castle doctrine, tax cuts, pro-life bills and deregulation.   

Despite a liberal Governor (Evers) and AG (Kaul), the combination of a conservative legislature and court can wield significant power.  Remember, the current conservative-majority court ultimately overturned Evers’ emergency Covid order that shut down our state.  A liberal court presumably would have sided with the Governor and extended the lockdown.  It was this conservative-majority court that also ruled against Evers’ partisan ‘fair maps’. 

The combination of a liberal Governor, a liberal AG who fails to challenge executive orders and a liberal court that willingly upholds the actions of the executive branch will most certainly circumvent our conservative legislature.   The court is a crucial backstop to overreach from Evers and his socialist allies, perhaps even more critical than the legislature.  Other than the U.S. Supreme Court, the WI Supreme Court is ultimate arbitrator in determining constitutionality of decisions derived by both the legislature and governor.

Needless to say, freedom-loving Wisconsinites absolutely cannot sit on the sidelines this spring.  We MUST retain control of the court. 

Mark your calendar on two important dates: 

Tuesday, February 21st will be the primary election and narrow the field of candidates to two. 

Tuesday, April 4th will be the general election to choose the new State Supreme Court Justice.

Early voting begins two weeks prior to each election.  While conservatives are generally leery about voting early versus in-person, it is clear that liberals have found a way to use early voting in their favor.  If there is any doubt that you will not be able to vote on Election Day, be sure to cast your ballot early either in-person at the clerk’s office or by mail as instructed. 

Given the high stakes and national implications of flipping a court in a swing-state heading into a presidential election, this is a race of monumental significance.  Likewise it’s expected to garnish a lot of outside campaign cash.  While political spending might not reach record-setting levels of our gubernatorial race ($115M spent) or US Senate races ($177M), expect a massive and nauseating amount of advertising, especially in more populous media markets.  Current trends predict big fundraising advantages for liberals. In order to hold the court, conservatives will need to leave nothing on the table in terms of get-out-the-vote efforts.  

The significance of the abortion debate:

Abortion will be a pivotal and defining issue in this race.  Since the U.S. Supreme Court Dobb’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and kick the issue back to the states, current state laws regarding abortion will be under intense scrutiny. The WI Supreme Court will play a critical role in the future direction of the pro-life movement.  On the heels of the midterms, you’ve likely heard about the ‘1848 law’.  As implied, the SCOTUS decision wiped out decades of federal law regarding abortion and reverted to a 1848 state decision that bans nearly all abortions in Wisconsin. 

While pro-life advocates cheered the decision, liberals used the ban as a rallying cry, so much so that they minimized any probably ‘red-wave’ in the midterms and actually managed to gain a seat in the U.S. Senate.  The highly energized and well-funded leftist pro-abortion base will not rest until full access to abortion is restored.  It is the bedrock of their leftist platform.  Flipping the WI Supreme Court almost guarantees that not only will abortion in Wisconsin be returned to pre-Dobbs levels, but it will be expanded to allow publicly-funded abortion up to full-term with little or no exceptions. 

Who’s on the ballot?

At this moment, it’s likely the primary race will feature four candidates.  Technically the court is non-partisan and court candidates don’t run as Republican or Democrat are as liberal or conservative, but it is no secret that justices have political leanings. 

On the liberal side, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Everett Mitchell and Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Janet Protaswicz have announced their intentions to run.  Democrats have heralded both and every indication points to either of them upholding the wishes of the socialist left including unfettered access to abortion.  Both come from the most liberal urban areas of the state.  If either Mitchell or Protaswicz is elected, you can guarantee the court will veer hard-left.  Not only will they be a rubber stamp for Evers and Kaul, but the liberal-majority court will determine which cases will be brought before the body.  Liberals have 10-plus years of conservative decisions that they have been salivating to overturn and will do so in short-order.

On the conservative side, former State Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly was the first to announce his run.  The 3rd District Circuit Court Justice Jennifer Dorow has also turned in paperwork to be on the ballot.  Both have impressive credentials among conservative circles. 

A common question is “So who do we vote for?”  That depends.  Constitutionalists, pro 2A and pro-life supporters would naturally want either a Kelly or Dorow victory in April to replace one conservative with another conservative and avoid a liberal takeover of the court.  Both have strong records and appeal and a case can be made for either regarding who is more electable against a liberal opponent. 

First and foremost, we need to ensure one of these conservatives advances in the February primary.  A nightmare would become reality if pro-liberty voters sit home on February 21st and both liberals advance to the general. 

A more likely scenario is a light turnout in February but with comparable amounts on liberal and conservative voters splitting their votes among four candidates, thus one conservative and one liberal advance to the April general election.  But keep in mind that a sizable margin in liberal turnout, or conversely conservatives and patriots sitting out the primary for a host of petty reasons could knock both Kelly and Dorow out in the first round and ensure a liberal victory. 

In any case, the point cannot be emphasized enough to drag your friends and family to the polls both in February and April.  There will be time to banter about potential 2024 presidential candidates, what bills the legislature passed or didn’t pass, pros and cons of the likes of McCarthy, McConnell or Vos, but without the WI Supreme Court, any freedoms we take for granted will be quickly lost and 2024 will be a moot point.