This is the kind of year when even elections for judges get national attention. And this means not just media attention but also money — a lot of money.
Yesterday’s Supreme Court election in Wisconsin is a case in point.
Liberal judge Rebecca Dallet cruised to a runaway victory that sent shockwaves (again) through the national Republican Party. For the first time in decades a liberal has been elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Dallet’s victory did more than just buoy the optimism of Democrats all over the country — it resulted in Wisconsin’s Republican governor worrying out loud about something that every Democrat hopes for: The Blue Wave.
And now many people will cite this judicial election as just one more piece of evidence that Democrats will be winning big in this fall’s midterm elections.
Dallet’s big victory over conservative judge Michael Screnock on Tuesday made Gov. Scott Walker warn Republicans that there could be more losses down the road for his party:
“Tonight’s results show we are at risk of a #BlueWave in WI,” Walker, who is up for re-election in November, tweeted. “Big government special interests flooded Wisconsin with distorted facts & misinformation. Next, they’ll target me and work to undo our bold reforms.”
In a state that Trump barely won 17 months ago (by less than 1 percentage point) the liberal Dallet handily won by almost 12 percentage points.
Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairwoman Martha Laning said that Dallet’s win was a “huge loss” for Walker because the governor’s “endorsement, philosophy and politics were on the ballot.”
A Democratic opponent of Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin tried to use Dallet’s win to help his campaign. Randy Bryce called the result “a rallying cry for working folks.”
There was another shocking win for Democrats in Wisconsin back in January in a special election for a state Senate seat in an overwhelmingly Republican district. At that time Walker also said the Democratic victory was a “wake-up call” for Republicans.
The election for a Supreme Court seat was nominally nonpartisan but there were millions of dollars flowing into the state and as a result there was massive advertising for this race. There were also high profile national endorsements from Joe Biden, Eric Holder and the National Rifle Association.
Dallet said her victory showed that Wisconsin voters are unhappy with the special interest influence which exists on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court.
“The candidate with the most experience in our courts and standing up for the fairness of our courts won,” she said. “I think people are tired of what’s been going on in our state in terms of the money coming in to buy these elections and people spoke out tonight.”
Screnock said he was proud of his campaign, in the face of “tremendous outside influence from liberal special interest groups that were willing to say and spend anything to elect their preferred candidate to the bench.” Screnock was endorsed by Walker and received over $400,000 from the Wisconsin Republican Party for the “nonpartisan” race.
Dallet, 48, has been a Milwaukee County circuit judge since 2008 and previously worked 11 years as a prosecutor. She will join the court in August.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.