Karofsky and Kelly advance in Wisconsin Supreme Court primary; Fallone eliminated

Incumbent Daniel Kelly and Jill Karofsky were the top-two finishers in Tuesday’s nonpartisan Wisconsin Supreme Court primary and will advance to the April 7 general election. As of 9:10 p.m. CT, Kelly had received 48.8% of the vote to Karofsky’s 38.0% and Fallone’s 13.3% with 57.3% of precincts reporting.

Although the race is officially nonpartisan, Kelly is a member of the court’s conservative majority and received support from conservative groups. Karofsky and Fallone indicated they would join the liberal minority and received support from liberal groups.

Recent election history suggested that either Karofsky or Fallone was likely to be eliminated in Tuesday’s primary. Between 2005 and 2019, every contested Wisconsin Supreme Court election resulted in a conservative-backed candidate and a liberal-backed candidate advancing from the primary rather than two justices of the same ideological leaning.

The April 7 general election will determine if and when ideological control of the court could change in the future. A Kelly win would preserve the current 5-2 conservative majority. Assuming that no justices leave the bench early, this would prevent liberals from winning a majority on the court any earlier than 2026. A Karofsky win would narrow the conservative majority to 4-3 and mean that the 2023 election would decide control of the court.

Recent Wisconsin Supreme Court general elections have been decided by narrow margins. In 2019, Brian Hagedorn defeated Lisa Neubauer by a 50.2% to 49.7% margin. The widest margin of victory in a contested Wisconsin Supreme Court election in the past decade was Ann Walsh Bradley’s 58.1% to 41.9% win over James Daley in 2015.

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