2023 Wisconsin Supreme Court race results in a new majority

Following a contentious campaign, Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz defeated former Justice Daniel Kelly for a Wisconsin Supreme Court seat in the state's 2023 spring election.

By Zac Schultz | Here & Now

April 7, 2023

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Janet Protasiewicz won a smashing victory on April 4, capturing a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court and creating a new liberal majority in the process.

The liberal Protasiewicz defeated conservative Daniel Kelly by 55.5% to 45.5%… in a race that set spending records and turned out nearly 2 million voters statewide.

“Well, Wisconsin, guess what? We did it,” said Protasiewicz at her election night party in Milwaukee.

The stakes of the race for a seat could not have been more clear.

The winner would determine the ideological balance of the court, and a record $45 million dollars in campaign spending made sure everyone in the state knew issues like abortion and redistricting were hanging in the balance.

“Wisconsin voters have made their voices heard,” said Protasiewicz in her victory speech. “They’ve chosen to reject partisan extremism in this state.”

Protasiewicz spent most of the campaign talking about her values — making it clear to voters how she felt about issues like abortion — even if she declared that would have no impact on how she might rule on the challenge to the state’s 1849 abortion ban.

“Our state is taking a step forward to a better and brighter future, where our rights and freedoms will be protected,” Protasiewicz said.

This election marked the second blowout loss for conservative Daniel Kelly.

Appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2016, he blamed his loss in 2020 on turnout for the Democratic presidential primary held on the same day.

This time he had no one else to blame.

Kelly spent the latter part of the campaign calling Protasiewicz a serial liar. He repeated those claims on election night and did not attempt to look gracious in defeat, even refusing to make the customary phone call conceding to his opponent.

“I wish that in a circumstance like this I would be able to concede to a worthy opponent, but I do not have a worthy opponent to which I can concede,” Kelly said in a speech after it was clear Protasiewicz had won.

Meanwhile, Protasiewicz could barely finish her victory speech, as she was welcomed into the new majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

“I will be a part of the solution to make our Supreme Court, along with my soon-to-be new colleagues,” she said, drowned out by cheering supporters.

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