Janet Protasiewicz’s election gives liberals a majority in court ahead of the upcoming ruling on the state’s abortion ban.
Wisconsin voters elected Justice Janet Protasiewicz to the state Supreme Court, creating a liberal majority on the bench in a key state ahead of the 2024 US presidential election.
Protasiewicz defeated conservative candidate Daniel Kelly in what New York University’s Brennan Center for Justice called the most expensive judicial election in US history. More than $42.3 million had been spent on Monday, according to a study by WisPolitics.com, far surpassing the previous record of $15.2 million.
The Associated Press called the race in favor of Protasiewicz.
In a significant victory for right to abortion defenders, the result shifts the court to liberal control, after 15 years with a 4-3 conservative majority. This will likely affect several issues that have polarized Americans in other states, such as right to vote and partisan control over the development of legislative maps.
But it was abortion that dominated the campaign, with the court set to decide in the coming months whether to uphold the state abortion ban imposed in 1849.
This law came into effect after the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States decision last year to eliminate a national right to abortion. Democratic state Attorney General Josh Kaul challenged the law’s validity in a lawsuit backed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
Protasiewicz has made abortion central to her campaign, saying in an ad that she supports “a woman’s freedom to make her own abortion decision.” Kelly, meanwhile, has won the endorsement of anti-abortion groups.
The election result also has important implications for the political future of the battleground state. Just as it did in 2020, the court could make crucial voting decisions before and after 2024 presidential electionas Wisconsin is once again poised to be a vital swing state.
In addition, the court can review congressional and state legislative maps, which Republicans have drawn to maximize their political advantage.
Although the election was technically non-partisan, neither Protasiewicz nor Kelly made much effort to hide their ideological bent. The state’s Democratic and Republican parties have invested resources in their favorite campaigns, and outside organizations have spent millions of dollars supporting their preferred candidate, including anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights groups.
Democrats have argued that a victory for Kelly could have endangered democracy itself in Wisconsin. They noted that a trial of the Republican donald trump contesting his presidential election loss to Democrat Joe Biden in 2020 came within a vote of succeeding in court.
Republicans have described Protasiewicz as soft on crime and said she would use the court to advance a liberal agenda regardless of the law.