The stakes in Wisconsin could not be higher. The state legislature is firmly controlled by the GOP, and Gov. Evers controls the governorship. When the inevitable disputes between the two branches need resolving, who do you want in control of the highest court? Right now, the Wisconsin Supreme Court is controlled by the fascists with a 4-3 majority. They’ve been a real thorn in the side of any hint of progressive thought for ages in the state.
On April 4, 2023, we have the opportunity to change all of that. One of the conservatives on the court retired, triggering an expensive election for control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. We've already had the primary election, where the liberal justices totaled 54% of the vote, and the conservatives combined for 46% of the vote. However, we cannot rest on our laurels just yet.
We need to do everything in our power to elect Milwaukee County circuit court Judge Janet Protasiewicz to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. She is a liberal justice going up against the repulsive conservative former Justice Dan Kelly, who we beat in 2020.
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What’s the Big Idea?
Now, you may be outside of Wisconsin and wondering why a bloke from Michigan is even bothering to write about a more obscure race in another state. There are quite a few reasons why we should care about this statewide race.
- Right now, the matter of abortion in the state has yet to be settled. The law states that abortion is illegal and criminal due to an ancient 1849 law made when Wisconsin became a state. The state legislature will not undo the law, which means the matter will be settled by the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
- Voting rights have been under attack in the state due to the conservative courts and the radical GOP state legislature. The only thing holding back the worst excesses is Gov. Evers having a veto pen. A liberal majority is much more likely to strike down any voting restrictions that the fascists pass.
- After the 2020 election, Trump filed numerous lawsuits against the result in Wisconsin. Only one conservative defected to support Biden in a series of 4-3 decisions upholding the election. We cannot rely on a conservative justice doing that again in 2024. Electing a liberal Supreme Court shuts the door on this legal chicanery.
- The state legislature and Congressional maps are hideously gerrymandered for the maximum benefit of the GOP. They control 2/3 or so of the seats in both houses in spite of being an evenly divided state. They also control 6 of the 8 Congressional districts. A liberal Supreme Court is much more likely to find these maps illegal.
- When Wisconsin tried to combat the pandemic with modest measures, the conservative Supreme Court struck them down. A more liberal Supreme Court would have deferred to the executive branch of the state instead of being politicians in robes.
Who is Judge Janet Protasiewicz?
Protasiewicz is a liberal judge who currently sits on the Milwaukee County circuit court. Her philosophy can be summarized by the following two paragraphs:
On her campaign website, Protasiewicz describes herself in terms of her judicial record:, "Community leader, a veteran prosecutor, and a lifelong advocate for victims of crime. In nearly a decade as circuit court judge, she has earned the respect of the community, developing a reputation for being fair and impartial."
Protasiewicz's campaign language goes on to make a more political case,
"Our system works because the law is predictable. You can read the constitution, the statutes, and case law, and know what to expect, but as we can see on an almost-daily basis, our most closely-held constitutional rights are under attack by radical right-wing extremists," it reads.
She is endorsed by the following politicians and groups:
- U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin
- former U.S. Senator Herb Kohl
- U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore
- U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan
- Rebecca Dallet, Jill Karofsky, Ann Walsh Bradley — Wisconsin Supreme Court justices
- American Federation of Teachers
- Brotherhood of Carpenters
- Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
- Citizen Action
- Communications Workers of America
- EMILY’s List (first ever endorsement of a judge)
- Laborer’s Union
- Planned Parenthood Wisconsin
- United Auto Workers
- Wisconsin Democratic Party
- Daily Kos
Who is Justice Dan Kelly?
Former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice Dan Kelly is a true piece of work. He was originally elevated to the highest court in 2016 by the execrable former Gov. Scott Walker. He was a part of the nearly unbreakable conservative wing of the court for 4 years, until current Justice Jill Karofsky defeated him in a 2020 election. Here go some of his greatest soundbites.
- He was involved in the Stop the Steal movement after the 2020 election, earning $120,000 from the Wisconsin Republican Party. He had extensive conversations about the illegal “fake elector” scheme that was an attempt to overturn the 2020 election.
- He likens Social Security to slavery, and also calls Obama’s victory a win for the "socialism/same-sex marriage/recreational marijuana/tax increase crowd."
- He stated in writing that “affirmative action and slavery spring from the same taproot”, and that “neither can exist without the foundational principle that it is acceptable to force someone into an unwanted economic relationship.”
- He is staunchly anti-abortion and a forced-birther, calling abortion at any stage the taking of life. He makes no exceptions for rape or incest or for the life of the mother.
- His favorite US Supreme Court decision of the past 30 years is United States v. Lopez, which limited the commerce clause by allowing guns within 1000 feet of a school until the law was amended. He is likely to be a pro-gun rights justice based on this.
- One case he felt was “illegitimate” was Obergefell v. Hodges, which famously affirmed same-sex marriage rights for the entire nation. He is likely to vote to overturn such a right in Wisconsin to force a test case to make the new US Supreme Court roll back this right.
One small saving grace is that he, like me, feels that one of the overlooked worst cases was Kelo v. New London, which allows the government to declare eminent domain over private property in order to give it to another private corporation for economic development was constitutional. But this one small conservative blip does not absolve him of the fascist tendencies found above.
How Can You Help?
Right now, this is on track to be the most expensive judicial election in history. Judge Janet Protasiewicz has raised more than $5.4 million for ads, with A Better Wisconsin allied with her adding another $1.3 million for their ad.
Justice Dan Kelly has been bankrolled by the billionaire Uihlein family and their dark money Super PAC “Fair Courts America”. They’ve spent heavily in the primary, and they are ramping up their spending now — to the tune of about $1 million so far. They are running disgusting anti-semitic ads against Protasiewicz.
If you have the funds, you can donate directly to Protasiewicz here.
The Democratic Party of Wisconsin is one of the better run state organizations. Ben Wikler has done an excellent job in an evenly divided state. A donation for GOTV is in order.
PvtJarHead wrote a well-recommended diary before the primary election, and in it these GOTV efforts were posted:
If you are in the Twin Cities or Chicago, you can be especially helpful in turning out voters on April 4th!
Finally, Progressive Muse on Good News Roundup is promoting Postcards to Voters, and other similar efforts which has shifted focus almost exclusively to this very important race.
Quick update on the efforts to help elect Judge Janet Protasiewicz to the Wisconsin Supreme Court on April 4: There are now at least three groups that I’m aware of that are writing for her. Each organization has different rules so be sure to read the instructions carefully for any group you decide to work with.
(Not to be confused with Postcards To Voters.) You order postcards on their website (prices are currently $12 for 100 or $20 for 200) and you have about a week from when you receive them to mail them.
You print a letter template and add your own personal, nonpartisan message to ask for the recipient’s vote. You will need a printer, paper, envelopes, and stamps. The big send date is March 28.
You bring your own inclusive postcards and postage stamps and PTV supplies the message and addresses. You can write as few as 4 or as many as 50 postcards at a time; you have three days from the time you request your addresses to get your postcards mailed.
Returning Postcards To Voters writers can use these methods to request addresses:
•Text HELLO to (484) 275-2229.
(if you have trouble with the linked address, you can use Postcards@TonyTheDemocrat.org instead, which will be answered by a human)
If you are new to Postcards To Voters, you can get set up by texting or emailing:
•Text JOIN to (484) 275-2229
Here is another group, Swing Blue Alliance, that is helping with postcards for the Wisconsin Supreme Court election. (They are based in Massachusetts and are not affiliated with Postcards To Voters but you may see some familiar writers’ names.)
I doubt this post will garner all that much attention, what with everything that is going on. I feel like this is my best chance to help out the Badger State, which is a critical bulwark in order coalition to keep Joe Biden in office in 2024.
This election may be the difference between a legitimate election in the state and it devolving into a clown show due to a fascist majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Rarely is there a judicial election with such high stakes as this one. We only guarantee two years of a liberal majority with a win, so we need to keep at it. Democracy requires constant vigilance and the realization that there is no off year or time to rest when the fascists are baying at the door to end our democracy.