After a contentious contest, appointed incumbent Justice Rebecca Bradley defeated Court of Appeals Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg on Tuesday in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election.
“A surge of Republicans who turned out to vote in the GOP presidential primary contest helped carry [Bradley] over the top,” The Associated Press reported. It noted that Bradley triumphed despite a wave of adverse publicity “after college articles she wrote 20 years ago bashing gays, AIDS victims and feminists surfaced.” Bradley apologized and said her opinions had changed since then.
The AP quoted data from Justice at Stake in reporting that Wisconsin Alliance for Reform, a conservative group, spent some $1.54 million in an ad blitz against Kloppenburg while The Greater Wisconsin Committee, a liberal-leaning organization, spent at least $345,000 on advertising in support of Kloppenburg.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said that as of shortly before midnight, Bradley led by 53 percent to Kloppenburg’s 47 percent with 88 percent of precincts reporting. With Bradley’s capturing a 10-year term, justices with a conservative philosophy maintain 5-2 control of the court.
A Newsweek article put the Wisconsin race in a national context of struggles to capture control of state courts: “The voter interest, the money, the outside group involvement—it all points to how much the politicization of the judiciary is the new normal in Wisconsin and, for that matter, the rest of the country.”
Newsweek added, “The increased attention on state judicial races is largely due to ‘a growing recognition that state supreme courts have a profound impact on a state’s legal landscape,’ says Alicia Bannon, senior counsel for the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center [for Justice]. ‘In the same way that it can make sense for interest groups to put money into electing legislatures…there’s been this growing effort to shape who gets on the courts.’” The Brennan Center is a JAS partner organization.