‘Extremely consequential’ Supreme Court primary race

Political Analyst Mike Wagner weighs-in on the fight for control of the state’s seven-judge high court.
Political Analyst Mike Wagner weighs-in on the fight for control of the state’s seven-judge high court.
Published: Feb. 21, 2023 at 7:30 AM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -Four candidates are vying for the seat up for grabs on the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the primary election Tuesday.

What is typically considered to be an under-the-radar judicial election cycle in Wisconsin has turned into a high-stakes fight for control of the state’s Supreme Court.

While the court is technically nonpartisan, conservatives hold a 4-3 majority on the bench. But the retirement of conservative justice, Patience Roggensack, gives liberals an opportunity to seize the majority.

“If one of the liberal candidates win it means that the state Supreme Court is likely to hear more cases that might advantage more liberal constituencies in the state and potentially decide cases in ways that advantage them,” said Mike Wagner, political analyst and professor in the School of Journalism at UW-Madison.

With the future of abortion, voting rights and redistricting in the battleground state hanging in the balance, Wagner says this judicial race is “extremely consequential” for Wisconsinites.

“We’re going from the conservatives having the advantage to the possibility of the liberals having the advantage on the state Supreme Court, this would greatly affect what they listen to, what was on their docket and the rulings that would come down and would potentially run the gamut from social issues like abortion and guns to redistricting to various laws around elections and how people can engage in early voting,” said Wagner.

The four candidates on the ballot Tuesday include Dan Kelly, Janet Protasiewicz, Jennifer Dorow, and Everett Mitchell.

Polls open at 7 a.m. and will be open until 8 p.m. The top two vote-getters move on to the spring general election on April 4.

“It’s rare that there’s a potential for a seismic shift in the interpretation of state law but this state Supreme Court election is that kind of opportunity for liberals in Wisconsin,” said Wagner.