An election is currently brewing that could have national implications for the 2023 midterms and even the 2024 national elections.
And it’s likely flying under most peoples’ radars. Ben Wikler, chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, says it’s the “most important election that nobody’s ever heard of.”
The election is for a vacancy on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court, a body that currently has a massive say in state issues due to divided government between the GOP-controlled state legislature and the Governor’s office controlled by Tony Evers (D), who just survived a narrow re-election bid in 2022.
The vacancy will not only fill a seat on a consequential political body, but it will be the seat that decides the balance on a highly powerful bench of one of the nation’s most consequential swing states.
The Court currently has a 4-3 conservative majority, with one conservative Justice Brian Hagedorn, elected in 2019, having sided with liberal Justices in the past on high-profile cases.
Conservative Justice Patience Roggensack will not seek another term, triggering the election and, with it, the jump ball for power in a crucial battleground that could signal where voter intentions lie and what campaign tactics work ahead of the 2024 national elections.
Democrats have blamed the conservative Court for upholding what they deem a gerrymandered U.S. House map passed by the GOP-controlled legislature. The map is largely unchanged from the map used during the 2010s. What was a fairly comfortable 5-3 GOP map, although almost 4-4 even in 2018, has now turned into a 6-2 GOP map with no signs of competition changing the partisan tilt. That’s mainly because Democrats face a severe geography problem in Wisconsin, as they do in Ohio.
Democratic voters are highly concentrated in the state’s two major urban centers, Madison and Milwaukee, while Republican voters are not concentrated in any particular area. Their base spreads across the state, and with the recent racing of many Midwestern counties to the Republican party in the Trump era, it makes sense why the once bluedog dairy farm areas are no longer conducive to Democratic campaigns.
Wisconsin also lacks large urban centers with pervasive suburban clout, as some states like Pennsylvania or Michigan currently have.
All this is to say: Democrats are hopeful a victory here could change how the House map is drawn for the Badger State, even if it means a geographically-butchered and county-splitting map giving Democrats more power in Washington.
Second in command to the mapmaking is abortion. After the June 2022 overturning of Roe Vs. Wade at the U.S. Supreme Court, an 1849 abortion ban was essentially reenacted, which prevents almost all elective procedures, while keeping provisions for life-threatening situations. The law only incriminates those providing abortions, not pregnant women seeking abortions. The state government has been divided over keeping, or at least reworking, the legislation. Democrats hope a win in the Court race will give them the ability to strike down the ban.
The GOP court and legislature have sparred with Democratic state leaders over limiting the appointment powers of the Governor and striking down the state mask mandate during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Millions have been sunk into the race at the moment, and analysts point to history to assess both parties’ chances.
For Democrats, they’ve enjoyed large margins of victory in 2015 and 2020, 16 points and 10 points, respectively. Although, the balance of power was not on the line here.
For Republicans, they’ve enjoyed turnout from Democratic scare campaigns in consequential cycles that feature referendums on state politics. Republicans won narrow but crucial victories during Governor Scott Walker’s (R) collective bargaining reforms in 2011. In 2019, the aforementioned “swing” Justice Hagedorn won a very tight race to retain the majority for conservatives.
The nonpartisan primary is scheduled for February 21, with the top two vote-receivers facing off in the general election on April 4.
While forecasting this race granularly is out of the scope of The Messenger, it’s safe to say this will be, at most, a 2-point race, either way and will certainly have tonal implications for the 2024 campaign.
The drama in Albany regarding the nomination of Hector LaSalle for the Court of Appeals continues. N.Y.S. Senator Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) filed a lawsuit this week, with other Senate Republicans, on behalf of Governor Kathy Hochul (D) to force a full vote on her nominee, Hector LaSalle, to be the state’s top judge.
Democrats on the Judiciary Committee stalled LaSalle’s nomination, as some believed him to not be progressive enough for the state, claiming him to be an improper check on the steadily conservative-leaning Court of Appeals. He was rejected on January 18 by the committee without receiving a floor vote from the full Senate.
Palumbo states: “Really, it’s dictated by the state constitution. That the full Senate, not a committee, where you can adjust memberships, you can adjust ratios, that should not dictate a nomination. And that is the crux of the lawsuit. It’s called a declaratory judgment.”
Hochul has stated she did not coordinate the lawsuit with Senate Republicans and has said she is not joining the lawsuit at this time.
While the decision would have certainly had legal precedent over judicial nominations in the future, the lawsuit seems moot, as Senate Democrats voted almost entirely across party lines to reject LaSalle’s nomination on Wednesday night, February 15.
As Senate Democrats have given LaSalle his right to a floor vote as a nominee, the jury is certainly not out on their ability to stonewall the Governor in the future.
Representative Andrew Garbarino (R-Sayville) of the Second District recently hit a Congressional milestone: 500 pieces of legislation cosponsored. Only in his second term, the Congressman has cosponsored 500 bills, 27 of which have become law.
His 500th bill was H.Res.100, a February 7 vote that expressed support for the Iranian people’s “desire for a democratic, secular, and nonnuclear Republic of Iran, and condemning violations of human rights and state-sponsored terrorism by the Iranian Government.” He was one of 172 cosponsors.
Garbarino has sponsored 21 pieces of legislation in his career, none of which have become law, mainly due to only three having passed the Democratic-controlled House last season.