Perhaps the most significant election in the last decade is at our door. Voters will head to the polls on April 4th and select a new Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice to fill the spot vacated by Judge Patience Roggensack.
While our courts are officially ‘non-partisan’ candidates for the judge generally have political histories and ideological leanings. Wisconsin’s court has a 4-3 conservative majority. Depending on the company they keep, the court’s decisions on big political hot topics are rather predictable.
Conservatives are defending this open seat, while liberals are salivating at the opportunity to flip the court and overturn a decade's worth of Republican laws passed by former Governor Scott Walker and the GOP legislature. Outside money is pouring in and the race is expected to be the most expensive Supreme Court campaign in history.
Through the primary process, the field of candidates has been narrowed to conservative Daniel Kelly and liberal Milwaukee circuit court judge Janet Protasiewicz. Kelly previously served on the State Supreme Court but was defeated in 2020. In Kelly’s defense, he faced a unique battle in that election as he was placed on the same ballot as the 2020 Democrat Presidential Primary. As such, he was swamped by a heavy turnout of liberal voters choosing between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. He faces a more even playing field this time.
What’s at stake?
As with other high-profile elections, voters are being bombarded with ads attacking the character of the opposing candidate. Both are labeled as ‘extreme’ or ‘unfit to serve’. Beyond the surface, there are serious issues at stake that will affect the average Wisconsinite.
Life and access to abortion
Perhaps no topic is as polarizing as abortion. The bookends of the issue include those who support unfettered taxpayer-funded access to full-term abortion with no questions asked up to the moment of natural birth. On the other side, some believe abortion should be made criminal with zero exceptions. In truth, the sentiment of the American populace falls on a scale somewhere in the middle.
The recent U.S. Supreme Courts Dobbs decision shifted the discussion and burden of abortion law back to the states. Due to Republican efforts, Wisconsin’s abortion laws shifted from lax to relatively moderate compared to other parts of the country. Wisconsin had laws restricting abortion after week 22 along with requirements of education and informed consent of those seeking an abortion. The Dobbs decision erased those laws, essentially outlawing abortion in Wisconsin. Governor Evers and his allies at Planned Parenthood have vowed to fight the decision and are pushing to fully legalize abortion beyond the previous 22-week ban. The Republican legislature also introduced bills to allow for abortion in rare cases of rape and incest, although these circumstances account for less than 0.5% of abortions sought.
Should Protasiewicz win and liberals take the court, it’s likely that they will follow the campaign promises of Tony Evers and strike any laws restricting abortion. Rather than a ‘middle of the road’ approach similar to what we had prior to Dobbs, look to Wisconsin to adopt rules similar to Minnesota. Governor Tim Walz recently signed legislation allowing all abortions with no restrictions. In effect, Minnesota permits the abortion of a healthy viable baby at full term. Abortion is permitted for any reason and at any time including gender selection or economic hardship. Despite the support of pro-life organizations, Dan Kelly has not indicated how he would rule on the issue. As a constitutional conservative, he pledges impartiality on issues that may come before the court. In proper form regarding separation of powers, he cites the role of the legislature to pass laws and the duty of the courts to interpret laws to determine their constitutionality.
Free and fair elections are the cornerstone of our republic. The most basic premise is to validate that voters can legally cast a ballot. Wisconsin’s voter ID law is supported by big margins; however it could be at risk. Again, the far-left Democrat legislature in Minnesota recently allowed driver’s licenses for non-citizens. Many fear this is a pathway to illegal voting. In the District of Columbia, local lawmakers also proposed allowing non-citizens to vote in local elections. Those concerned about future ballot-harvesting and election integrity should take note of this important election.
The 2nd Amendment
It’s safe to say that northern Wisconsin has a ‘gun culture’. We enjoy the outdoors and hunting, but more importantly, we recognized the constitutional right to own firearms for liberty and self-defense.
With fierce opposition from liberal Democrats, Walker, and the GOP legislature implemented concealed-carry and Castle Doctrine in the mid-2010s. Castle Doctrine allowed homeowners to use a firearm to defend themselves on their property. One would expect a liberal court to consider lawsuits overturning these freedoms and to expand restrictions on firearms not limited to; bans on magazines that hold more than10 rounds, outlawing popular models of semi-automatic handguns, or adopting similar bans as have been instituted in Chicago or Washington DC.
Public Sector Unions, Parental Rights and ACT 10
Before there was the storm of the United States Capital on January 6th, there was the storm of our state capital in Madison in the wake of Act 10. Tens of thousands of activists picketed, protested and occupied the capital as Republican lawmakers faced death-threats and Democrat Senators fled to Illinois to avoid voting.
Among other things, Walker and Republican’s budget repair bill saved taxpayers billions of dollars. It also dealt a blow to public sector unions by giving workers a choice whether or not they wanted to pay union dues. Predictably, many workers chose to ditch the union. As a result, public sector union strength diminished significantly.
Unions have long been an ally of the Democrat Party. Many unions make no apology for their socialist and Marxist ties. Consequently, unions are heavily invested in supporting Janet Protasiewicz and banking their investment will pay off with a court that will overturn Act 10.
In addition to the financial ramifications to taxpayers, many of our northland public K-12 schools have decertified their teachers union since Act 10 passed. As a result, powerful outside interests like the NEA and AFT no longer have a seat at the table. Instead, locally-elected school boards and administrators can decide curriculum, staffing and budgets. Poorly performing teachers and instructors that push critical race theory can be let go by local boards of education. The board is accountable to local voters and parents have in increased say in their children’s education.
Do your part
Americans are blessed with many freedoms. While our history is not perfect, we are thankful for those who continually push for the quest for freedom. This includes our veterans and those who gave all to fight tyranny. There are too many examples of good people around the world who still do not have basic rights that we enjoy. Do your part. Be informed. You can find a sample ballot, your polling location or request an absentee ballot at MyVote.WI.gov and remember to vote early or on April 4th.
Northland Freedom Alliance is a non-partisan, not-for-profit made up of Wisconsinites with the mission to educate and advance our communities through the strength of our constitutional republic to ensure sound government and freedoms prescribed in the Bill of Rights.