Wisconsin Supreme Court Race Heats Up With Primary Election Just Days Away

On February 21, Wisconsin voters will choose the next justice on the state Supreme Court in a primary election.[0] This will be the first major election of 2023, and it has huge implications for the future of the state and the nation as a whole. The race features four candidates: Jennifer Dorow, Dan Kelly, Everett Mitchell, and Janet Protasiewicz. The two candidates with the highest vote totals will advance to the April 4 general election.[1]

Dorow and Kelly have conservative leanings, while Mitchell and Protasiewicz are considered progressives.[2] In 2021, Dorow garnered attention when she acted as the judge in the trial of the individual who drove through the Waukesha Christmas Parade, resulting in the death of six people.[3] Protasiewicz has been outspoken on the campaign trail and in TV ads about her support for a woman's right to make her own decision on abortion.[4] Kelly has compared Dorow to Justice Brian Hagedorn, who was elected in 2019 but has since been criticized by Republicans for a handful of cases in which he sided with the court’s liberal minority.[5]

The Supreme Court of Wisconsin currently has a 4-3 conservative majority.[2] Justice Patience Roggensack's retirement from the court has set the stage for the new justice to determine if the court will remain conservatively-leaning or transition to a liberal majority.[6] The court is expected to rule in the near future on whether Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban will remain on the books, and it could also decide on issues such as voting rights and redrawing election districts.[1]

Ad tracker Medium Buying has reported that TV and radio ads in the SCOWIS primary have topped $6 million.[7] The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign states that the highest recorded expenditure for both a primary and general election for the Supreme Court was $10 million.[7] Eric Toney, a former Republican candidate for Attorney General, and over 30 county sheriffs have given their endorsement to Dorow.[8] Protasiewicz has earned endorsements from over 100 sheriffs, police chiefs, and prosecutors from across the state.

The 2023 Wisconsin Supreme Court race is the most critical election of the year, and it could have profound consequences for the future of Wisconsin and the nation. With less than a week to go before the primary, the battle for control of the state Supreme Court is in full swing.

0. “Wisconsin primary election: State Supreme Court candidates” WISN Milwaukee, 17 Feb. 2023, https://www.wisn.com/article/wisconsin-supreme-court-february-primary-election/42847600

1. “‘Stakes are monstrous’: Wisconsin judicial race is 2023’s key election” The Guardian US, 13 Feb. 2023, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/feb/13/wisconsin-supreme-court-election-gerrymandered-democracy

2. “Why the Law School Wisconsin's Conservative Supreme Court Candidates Attended Is Concerning” UpNorthNews, 15 Feb. 2023, https://upnorthnewswi.com/2023/02/15/why-the-law-school-wisconsins-conservative-supreme-court-candidates-attended-is-concerning/

3. “Wisc. Supreme Court race goes over $6 million in ad spending” NBC News, 16 Feb. 2023, https://www.nbcnews.com/meet-the-press/meetthepressblog/wisc-supreme-court-race-goes-6-million-ad-spending-rcna71016

4. “Pro-life groups battle for Wisconsin Supreme Court” WORLD News Group, 14 Feb. 2023, https://wng.org/roundups/pro-life-groups-battle-for-wisconsin-supreme-court-1676414251

5. “Kelly, with a pro-business record, runs on originalism” Wisconsin Examiner, 15 Feb. 2023, https://wisconsinexaminer.com/2023/02/15/kelly-with-a-pro-business-record-runs-on-originalism

6. “High voter turnout for February primary election” WEAU, 15 Feb. 2023, https://www.weau.com/2023/02/15/high-voter-turnout-february-primary-election/

7. “WI Supreme Court Race Spending Hits Millions” 715Newsroom.com, 15 Feb. 2023, https://715newsroom.com/2023/02/15/wi-supreme-court-race-spending-hits-millions/

8. “Conservative Supreme Court candidates push for more legislative investigations, election lawsuits” Racine County Eye, 14 Feb. 2023, https://racinecountyeye.com/2023/02/14/supreme-court-candidates-lawsuits