After a gap of 15 years, the Wisconsin Supreme Court comes under the control of liberals for the first time.

Supreme court : Wisconsin’s Milwaukee -In Wisconsin, the Democrats have achieved a significant victory in an off-year election, as they clinched the state’s vacant supreme court seat and took control of the court from conservatives for the first time in 15 years. Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz has emerged as the winner of the fiercely contested race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, as reported by The Associated Press. She defeated her opponent, former state Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly. Notably, the campaign expenditures for this election surpassed the previous national record for a state supreme court election.

The triumph of Protasiewicz is of great significance to both the court and Democratic supporters who played a pivotal role in her election. With a liberal majority in place, the justices are highly likely to take up the case challenging Wisconsin’s pre-Civil War abortion ban. Moreover, they are expected to consider a lawsuit that could potentially overturn the Republican-drawn legislative maps of the state.

Furthermore, the victory ensures that liberals will maintain their hold on the court in advance of the upcoming presidential election next year. This is especially significant as Wisconsin is a perennial swing state, expected to play a crucial role in the race for the White House. If state election lawsuits are filed, Protasiewicz will be one of the seven justices with the final decision-making power.

At the Saint Kate hotel in downtown Milwaukee, the atmosphere was electric as Protasiewicz made her way to the stage for her victory speech. Her supporters erupted in joyous celebration, with some of her closest allies dancing alongside her.

As her speech neared its end, Protasiewicz was joined on stage by the three existing liberal justices of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. “Our state is moving forward towards a brighter future where our rights and freedoms will be safeguarded,” she said. “Though there is still much work to be done, tonight we celebrate this historic triumph that has rekindled hope in so many of us.”

The optimistic aspirations of the Democrats

If the court redraws the maps and provides Democrats with a better chance of winning legislative races, they anticipate that they could steer the state’s political direction towards the left. Additionally, the court may also potentially redraw Wisconsin’s congressional map, which presently has Republicans occupying six out of eight U.S House seats in an otherwise 50-50 state.

Protasiewicz, a native of Milwaukee’s south side, has served as a prosecutor in the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s office for 25 years, and as a judge for most of the last decade. Although she made no promises regarding her stance on cases that come before the Supreme Court, she was vocal about her political views during the campaign. She expressed her belief in a woman’s right to choose on the issue of abortion and criticized the state’s Republican-drawn legislative maps as “rigged” when it came to redistricting.

Protasiewicz’s campaign was unprecedentedly reliant on financial assistance from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. Consequently, she pledged to abstain from cases involving the state party after being sworn in as a justice.

The defeat of Kelly and the issue of campaign finances

In his concession speech delivered to supporters in Green Lake, Wisconsin, Kelly criticized Protasiewicz for what he deemed as her “demeaning of the judiciary” throughout her campaign. Although he downplayed his political views during the race, Kelly brought a long Republican resume, having been appointed to the court by former Republican Governor Scott Walker in 2016. He spent most of his career as an attorney and in 2012, he defended Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn legislative maps in federal court. Following his loss in 2020, Kelly returned to private practice where he counted both the state and national Republican parties among his clients.

During the election, Kelly’s largest financial backers included Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and Fair Courts America, a group funded by GOP megadonor Richard Uihlein. Together, they spent more than $10 million on ads criticizing Protasiewicz’s sentences as a judge in Milwaukee County. In contrast, Protasiewicz received unprecedented financial support from the state Democratic Party, with a fundraising haul of over $14 million, which shattered the previous national record for spending in a state Supreme Court race.

The race received significant attention due to the massive amount of money spent on political ads, with a running tally by the Wisconsin political news site WisPolitics estimating that total spending on the race had hit $45 million. Protasiewicz will take office on August 1 for a term that runs until 2033, and with the liberal majority on the court, Democrats hope to challenge the state’s Republican-drawn legislative maps and push the state’s political trajectory to the left.

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