The latest from the Wisconsin Supreme Court election

Welcome to the Thursday, February 2, Brew. 

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Wisconsin Supreme Court primary is less than three weeks away
  2. An update on the partisan composition of state legislature seats around the country
  3. Listen to our interview with Richard Wininger for On the Ballot, our weekly podcast

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Wisconsin Supreme Court primary is less than three weeks away

Let’s start the day with some updates out of Wisconsin, where there have been new fundraising reports and endorsements in the race for state Supreme Court.

Wisconsin is one of two states—alongside Pennsylvania—holding regular elections for state supreme court in 2023.

The top two vote-getters in the Feb. 21 nonpartisan primary for Wisconsin’s Supreme Court will advance to a general election on Apr. 4. Waukesha County Circuit Judge Jennifer Dorow, former Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, Dane County Circuit Judge Everett Mitchell, and Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz are running.

Justice Patience Roggensack, whose term will expire in July, is not running for re-election.

We first took a look at this race in our Jan. 11 edition of The Daily Brew, in which we profiled the four candidates. To read that story, click here

While supreme court elections are officially nonpartisan, the court is considered to have a 4-3 conservative majority. With Roggensack—a member of the court’s conservative majority—retiring, this election will determine the ideological control of the court. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Corrinne Hess, “[Mitchell and Protasiewicz] are running as liberal candidates. Kelly and Dorow are running as conservative candidates.”

Wisconsin reporters and political commentators have identified abortion policy, election administration, and legislative redistricting as some of the issues the court could address following the election. Wisconsin has a divided government where neither party holds a trifecta. The governor is Democrat Tony Evers, while the Republican Party controls both chambers of the state legislature.

Current and former justices have endorsed different candidates in the election. Roggensack endorsed Dorow in January 2023. Justice Rebecca Bradley endorsed Kelly in November 2022, Justice Rebecca Dallet endorsed Protasiewicz in May 2022, and former Justice Louis Butler endorsed Mitchell in June 2022. 

In terms of fundraising, the four candidates raised a combined $1.7 million (not counting satellite spending) as of December 31, 2022, the most recent reports available. Protasiewicz held a large fundraising advantage over the other candidates, having raised more than $920K, according to the reports. Kelly, in second place, had raised $312K. Dorow had raised $307K, and Mitchell had raised $140K. 

Heading into the 2020 election, the court had a 5-2 conservative majority. In that election, liberal Jill Karofsky defeated Kelly 55.2% to 44.7%.

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An update on the partisan composition of state legislature seats

At the end of January 2023, 54.85% of all state legislature seats in the United States are Republican while 44.45% of seats are Democratic. There are 7,386 state legislative seats in the country.

Democrats hold 854 state Senate seats, gaining six Senate seats since last month, while Republicans hold 1,108 state Senate seats, gaining three seats since last month. Independent or third-party legislators hold three state Senate seats. Eight state Senate seats are vacant. 

When it comes to state House seats, Democrats hold 2,429, a gain of 31 seats since last month, while Republicans hold 2,943 seats, a gain of 25 seats since last month. Independent or third-party legislators hold  20 state House seats. Twenty-one state House seats are vacant. 

Compared to January 2022, Democrats have lost eight state Senate seats (862 v. 854) and gained 20 state House seats (2,409 v. 2,429). Republicans have gained 14 state Senate seats (1,094 v. 1,108) and gained 21 state House seats (2,922 v. 2,943). 

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Listen to our interview with Richard Winger for On the Ballot, our weekly podcast

On the Ballot, our weekly podcast, takes a closer look at the week’s top political stories.

In this week’s episode, host Victoria Rose interviews Richard Winger, founder and editor of Ballot Access News, which covers developments in ballot access law, and the latest action in the minor 

political party scene. In their conversation, Winger and Victoria talk about ballot access for minor parties in places like California, Washington, and Georgia, and about what ranked-choice voting (RCV) could mean for minor parties in the future.

Click below to listen to older episodes and find links to where you can subscribe. 

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