Ordinarily, a state Supreme Court race wouldn’t garner national attention, but yesterday’s contest in Wisconsin was anything but a local affair.
Liberal judge Rebecca Dallet’s runaway victory in a Wisconsin Supreme Court race cheered Democrats eager for more evidence their party is ready for a winning fall in midterm elections.
And Dallet’s hammering of conservative judge Michael Screnock on Tuesday prodded Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who had endorsed Screnock, to warn his fellow Republicans that more losses could be coming.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, her victory marked “the first time in 23 years that a liberal candidate who wasn’t an incumbent won a seat on the high court.” What’s more, it wasn’t close: as of the latest tally, Dallet appears to have won this race by nearly 12 points.
Scott Walker, who’s running for a third term this year, pointed to the results as proof that a “blue wave” may be coming to Wisconsin.
He’s right to worry. In January, a Democratic candidate won a state Senate special election in a district that Donald Trump won by 17 points, defeating a Republican who enjoyed considerable support from the party and its far-right allies.
By most metrics, however, yesterday’s election matters even more.
Conservatives have enjoyed a five-member majority on the seven-member Wisconsin Supreme Court, but a conservative retirement created a vacancy – and an opportunity. While state court races are officially non-partisan, Republicans rallied behind Sauk County Circuit Judge Michael Screnock, a far-right jurist originally appointed by Walker.
Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet, meanwhile, was championed by state and national Democratic leaders – Joe Biden and Eric Holder were among her notable supporters – who were eager to turn this race into a major 2018 proxy fight.
It worked. Dallet won by double-digits and the state court’s conservative majority now has a 4-3 advantage, instead of 5-2.
Looking ahead, Wisconsin – a state Donald Trump narrowly won, thanks in part to a divided center-left – has two more state legislative special elections coming up, races the GOP governor was reluctant to schedule until the courts gave him no choice.
What’s more, the right has gone after Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) with a vengeance, seeing her as vulnerable in this increasingly red-ish state. It’s a safe bet the incumbent senator, who also supported Rebecca Dallet’s candidacy, is pleased with the recent results in her home state.