In a major political win for Democrats, Judge Janet Protasiewicz was elected as the new Wisconsin Supreme Court justice after a contentious race for the critical swing seat. The campaign saw a record level of spending for a state judicial contest, with the funds reflecting how state courts have become a prominent battleground for partisan politics. Protasiewicz was backed by the Democratic Party, while her opponent, Daniel Kelly, had worked as a Republican Party lawyer after losing his 2016 appointment to the Supreme Court in 2020.
The election could have wide-ranging consequences, as the court is set to review the 1849 law that restrict abortions in the state and make a decision on the gerrymandering of current electoral maps. The outcome of this vote could determine the shape of Wisconsin politics for years to come.
Protasiewicz currently serves as a judge on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, leading a court that issued landmark rulings in Medicaid expansion and vaccine exemption cases. Previously, she worked as a prosecutor, focusing on organized crime, fraud, and drug offenses. Her opponent, Daniel Kelly, is a former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice who has served as a lawyer for the Republican National Committee since being voted out in 2020. Kelly was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2016, but ultimately lost the election to keep his seat.
The election’s campaigns saw an unprecedented level of resources poured into the race, with both candidates receiving national support and outside organizations spending heavily in the election. With the outcome decisive, the discourse has shifted to the impact of the election’s political outcome and the challenge facing the court. The repercussions of the courtroom’s decisions on the abortion ban and gerrymandering could reshape Wisconsin politics in the years to come.