Wisconsin State Supreme Court Race – Winners and Losers

By YeOldeScribe ~ April 5th, 2011 @ 11:53 pm

Note: At time of publication (12:55 a.m.), Prosser led Kloppenburg 727,041 to 725,143 (a 50/50 split, percentage wise) with 3540/3560 (98%) precincts reporting. However, Kloppenberg was leading in many of the remaining districts. Check the link below for more details and for updated numbers.

We’re going to start taking a look at national (or at least non-Wisconsin) political happenings starting tomorrow, but before we do, we wanted to take a look at tonight’s race between the incumbent Justice David Prosser and his challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg. Results are still coming in and will be for the rest of the night. The vote has be 50/50 for much of the night, with Prosser leading the majority of the way, although Kloppenburg did jump ahead for a bit. Most of the missing votes are in Dane and Milwaukee counties, so it’s going to be a long night for anyone trying to follow the races to say the least. If you’re interested in following the race or looking at a county by county breakdown, here’s the best we could find from the AP:


Since we don’t know the outcome yet (and we may not until tomorrow or beyond), we’ll just look at the winners and losers given that the race essentially ends 50/50 (no matter who wins).

Winner: Absentee Ballots. Since the election looks like it will be decided by a few thousand votes either way, those who voted absentee/early can easily say they decided the election and they wouldn’t be wrong. We noticed a few people say on Facebook that they forgot to request an absentee ballot. If the election doesn’t turn out the way they would have wanted, we can imagine that they’ll be kicking themselves quite hard for failing to do something so simple.

Loser: Prosser. Even if he wins the election, he still loses in our minds. This election wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near close, and everyone was predicting an easy Prosser win as few as two moths ago. Since then, it’s been revealed that Prosser called Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson a “bitch” and threatened to “destroy” her (and then claimed those statements “wasn’t his fault”). On top of that, Prosser started his campaign by saying he would be just like Walker. Obviously a lot happened since then, but much of the blame for the failure of the Prosser campaign falls squarely on the shoulders of Prosser himself.

Winner: Democrats/Liberals. We’ll include the slash just so people can pretend that the election wasn’t partisan. But this is a huge win for Democrats. Kloppenburg wasn’t exactly an ideal candidate – she had been passed up for nomination by both Obama and Doyle – so the race being so close isn’t really a win for her, but it sure is a sign of good things to come for Democrats. The fact that the election came down to the wire and still hasn’t been decided yet should be counted as a win for them even if they lose the election. Again, no one gave Prosser’s opponent a chance, but Dems were able to capitalize on momentum from the Budget Repair Bill, and that’s a good sign that people haven’t forgotten about that yet. Speaking of the devil…

Loser: Budget Repair Bill. We actually hate the fact that this played in to the election, for the most part. It’s understandable because with Prosser the Republicans have a better chance at the State Supreme Court overturning Judge Sumi’s ruling (if they decide to even take up the case). It’s also understandable because Prosser did say he was going to be just like Walker, and the Budget Repair Bill was Walker’s baby. At the same time we actually agree with Prosser when he said, “I’m not responsible for any of this.” Prosser is taking way too much heat for something he really had little to do with. What we don’t agree with is his next statement – “I view this a little bit like a drive-by shooting.” Sorry, Prosser – you’re far from an innocent victim here. You hitched your wagon to the wrong ox, it’s too late to complain about where it’s pulling you.

Winner: Democracy. We talked to poll workers today who said that this was one of the largest voter turnouts they had ever seen for an April election. No matter who wins the election, more people voting means we all win. Although numbers will still be well under 50%, we guarantee it will still be better than the 20% that these races usually attract.

Loser: Judicial independence. Make no mistake about it, this race was Red vs. Blue to the core. They might as well have placed the (r) and (d) tags next to Prosser and Kloppenburg, respectively. While Kloppenburg campaigned on judicial independence, it was obvious based on who was supporting her which way she leaned. Prosser essentially campaigned as a Republican and was heavily endorsed by their Political Action Committees. Also, this was the most expensive State Supreme Court race in WI’s history… and almost all of that money comes from special interest groups, since the parties don’t usually get involved. If this election is determined by a few thousand votes (which it looks like right now), it will only encourage more spending by special interest groups, which is not a good thing ever, but especially so for Supreme Court Justices.

Biggest Winner: Deceit. This is one of the reasons why we didn’t post on the election before tonight, why we didn’t endorse a candidate, and why we’re so disappointed with the system. Both Prosser and Kloppenburg earned “Pants on Fire” statements from PolitiFact, as did a PAC attacking Kloppenburg. Of the statements made by people associated with the Supreme Court race, none were ranked higher than “half true” (Note: The last issue on the list doesn’t belong there as far as we can tell – we don’t see how it relates to the SC race). For two people running to decide what the state constitution really means, the amount of deceit was downright devastatingand appalling. We can’t begin to describe how disappointed we are with both candidates. Our writer described voting for Kloppenburg as picking the lesser of two evils. He didn’t really want to vote for Kloppenburg, but he sure as hell wanted to vote against Prosser. Regardless, the amount of lies being thrown around by candidates and their respective PAC’s was abhorrent, and is the reason why deceit was the biggest winner in this election cycle.

Biggest Loser: Scott Walker. I know, Walker technically had nothing to do with this election. But that’s not true, really. First, Prosser tied himself to Walker in an attempt to woo Republicans. That backfired so harshly that Prosser ended up criticizing Walker by the end of his campaign, trying to say that he was nothing like his Republican friend. The idea that a candidate who was just elected by popular vote not more than six months ago would be such a lead weight to a Supreme Court Justice’s campaign shows exactly what public opinion has to say about Walker. Second, the Budget Repair Bill, which was Walker’s signature item, also helped to sway more votes to Kloppenburg than it did to Prosser – not a good sign at all. While we don’t like that people incorrectly associated Prosser with the bill, the fact that the association ended up hurting him instead of helping him doesn’t bode well for the governor. Finally, if Kloppenburg does end up winning the race, it’s a huge blow to Walker’s chances of getting the State Supreme Court to overturn Judge Sumi’s decision. Even if she ends up losing by the slimmest of margins, it’s not good news for Walker. Kloppenburg went from being a nobody who had no chance to a legitimate contender to knock off an incumbent all because of Walker and his Budget Repair Bill.

It’s probably true that the best thing to happen to Democrats/Liberals in this election was Scott Walker. And while we’re very happy more people participated in the election, we’re very sad with the candidates’ lack of honesty and the power of PAC’s. In a future post, we’ll take a closer look at how we feel judges should come to the bench (looking at appointment vs. elections, etc). Until then, we’ll be watching in earnest as the final votes are counted.

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2 Responses to Wisconsin State Supreme Court Race – Winners and Losers

  1. Chris McConaughay

    What really concerns me is just how divided we are as a state. If one chooses to look at this race as a referendum on Walker, or the Budget Repair Bill, or the 14 Senators, or any of the other partisan hot topics, then one has to accept that we’re split right down the middle. We have been since the recession first hit (if not sooner). I think you had a great point about how R and D should have been next to the names, but I would take it a step further and just say that they shouldn’t have had the names at all, and just the R and D. I’m just not sure how this will play out in the months or years ahead… What did the great man say? Something about hanging together or hanging separately… What a wise man.
    That being said, I’m not sure why people were even considering the State Supreme Court as a way of finishing off the Budget Repair Bill. When “union rights” were first codified into law, it was not done by state constitutional amendment. My understanding is that it was just a law. A law that can be undone by another law. Thus, the State Supreme Court, if serving a non-activist role, would have to fall in support of it. I’m not sure of the exact legal jujitsu being used at them moment, however, so that might not even matter. Not to mention the fact that activist judges are so engrained in our society that one shouldn’t even really muse about life/law without them (unless you want to court frustration or fear, depending on where you fall on that issue).

  2. Nathan Wright

    ” (Note: The last issue on the list doesn’t belong there as far as we can tell – we don’t see how it relates to the SC race). ”

    Marla Stevens was a candidate in the primary. It’s related, but old news.


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