A Liberal Judge Just Won a Seat on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court. Here’s Why Her Victory Matters So Much.
Progressive Circuit Court Judge Rebecca Dallet gave the Democratic party another bolt of momentum on Tuesday as she defeated conservative Circuit Court Judge Michael Screnock to win a vacant seat on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court.
The race, largely expected to be close, tipped in Dallet’s favor, with the liberal candidate gaining 56% of the vote. Her win also alters the makeup of the state’s Supreme Court, shrinking the conservative majority to 4-3.
While state Supreme Court justices are nonpartisan, the race was highly politicized, with candidates and supporters on both sides finding ways to turn it into a referendum on the opposing party. Dallet—who received support from former Obama Attorney General Eric Holder, former Vice President Joe Biden, and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker—ran attack ads on President Donald Trump. Screnock, meanwhile, positioned himself as a conservative, receiving support from the state’s Republican Party and the NRA.
All told, the two sides spent more than $2.5 million on TV ads by election day, demonstrating how early or special state races are increasingly being seen as a harbinger of what’s to come in the November midterms. Like the races in Virginia, Alabama, and Pennsylvania before it, Dallet’s win in Wisconsin is perceived to be a sign of a Democratic wave spreading across the country.
And while one race is not enough to predict the outcome of the 2018 midterms, Dallet’s win is still significant. Wisconsin has been increasingly moving to the right. It supported Trump in 2016—the first time it’d favored a Republican presidential candidate in 32 years—after electing Republican Scott Walker as governor in 2010. But even before Dallet’s victory, a state senate election hinted at Democratic surge, as Democrat Patty Schachtner won a seat that had been held by a Republican for 17 years.
Democrats were looking to build momentum in Tuesday’s Supreme Court race, with the hope that it will carry the party into November, when midterm elections take place and when Walker himself is up for reelection.