Wisconsin is holding elections Tuesday for state Supreme Court and well as for hundreds of county, city, village and town posts.
So what’s the hottest issue for state and local candidates?
You guessed it. Gov. Scott Walker’s war on workers, education, the BadgerCare and SeniorCare health programs and the rule of law.
The Supreme Court election in Wisconsin—one of a number of Midwestern states that elect jurists, in keeping with the progressive tradition that said all powerful officials should be accountable to the people—will provide the first real measure of the strength of the mass movements that have developed to challenge Walker, his agenda and his political allies.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court currently has a 4-3 conservative majority that is expected to be sympathetic to Walker’s agenda as it faces extended litigation. But one of the conservative justices is facing an unexpectedly hard re-election fight. If he loses, the balance on the court will tip toward a majority that is more likely to check and balance the governor who has emerged as the authoritarian face of the national push by conservatives to break public-sector unions.
As such, the Wisconsin race is being watched closely by the governor’s critics—who have taken to calling the state “Fitzwalkerstan,” a combination of the governor’s name and that of his legislative consigliere, Senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald—and by Walker’s allies in corporate boardrooms and right-wing think tanks far from Wisconsin.
The incumbent, Justice David Prosser, is a long-time associate of Governor Walker (they served together in the legislature during a period when Prosser was the Assembly speaker and Walker was an up-and-coming conservative assemblyman). Prosser’s campaign has been backed by Republicans allied with the governor and national conservative groups who like the fact that the justice’s campaign has said he will serve as a “complement” to Walker and the Republican-controlled legislature.
That’s unprecedented. But so, too, is Prosser’s determination to politicize what is supposed to be a nonpartisan judicial position.
Prosser has departed from the state’s best judicial values and traditions to identify himself as a conservative who will make decisions based on his political ideology and his political associations—particularly his association with Governor Walker—rather than the law.
His opponent, veteran Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg, has done the opposite, positioning herself as a rule-of-law contender who would serve as an independent jurist rather than an ally of the governor.