Empower Wisconsin | March 4, 2020
By Jake Curtis, for The Federalist
The path to the White House will run squarely through the Badger State. As in years past, the election this spring for a ten-year term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court will serve as a precursor for the battle to come.
In January, the president noted as much at a rally in Milwaukee, where he urged his supporters, “Go vote for Justice Daniel Kelly to defend the rule of law!” In mid-February, incumbent Justice Dan Kelly, appointed to the high court in 2016 by former Gov. Scott Walker, advanced out of a three-way primary to face Madison Judge Jill Karofsky. The contrast between the two candidates is stark.
Proxy Battles for Large Wars
Throughout the Walker era, Wisconsin’s Supreme Court elections served as proxy battles between the union-supported special interests that held a vice-like grip on state government for decades and reform-minded conservatives attempting to break the special interest monopoly. This was epitomized in the debate over Act 10, which weakened unions by giving more power to local governments to control public employee benefits.
As the Act 10 war raged in 2011, what would have been a sleepy contest between respected incumbent Justice David Prosser and his Madison counterpart became a contest with national implications. A Prosser loss would have likely resulted in the legal defeat of Act 10, as his opponent had all but declared her opposition to Walker’s signature reform.
When a snafu in conservative Waukesha County resulted in Prosser taking a late lead, leftists howled that the election had been stolen, and a recount was initiated. Many of us spent the following weeks counting ballots in warehouses throughout Wisconsin. In the end, Prosser prevailed.
Read more at The Federalist.
Jake Curtis is a Milwaukee attorney. He previously served as the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ chief legal counsel under Gov. Scott Walker and as an associate counsel at the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty.