JoAnne Kloppenburg, the unheralded Assistant US Attorney who just a few weeks ago didn’t seem to have much of a chance in a state Supreme Court election against a longtime Republican stalwart, declared victory today in the election, after all precincts on an initial count showed her leading by 204 votes out of 1.5 million cast. Here is her statement:
“We owe Justice Prosser our gratitude for his more than 30 years of public service. Wisconsin voters have spoken and I am grateful for, and humbled by, their confidence and trust. I will be independent and impartial and I will decide cases based on the facts and the law. As I have traveled the State, people tell me they believe partisan politics do not belong in our Courts. I look forward to bringing new blood to the Supreme Court and focusing my energy on the important work Wisconsin residents elect Supreme Court justices to do.”
I hardly expect Prosser to now concede. But consider the magnitude of this. Only five state Supreme Court justices have been defeated for re-election since the court’s establishment in 1852. Prosser got 55% of the vote in the first round primaries and was sailing to re-election until Scott Walker decided to take away workers’ rights. This election was unquestionably a referendum on him, and it turned a sure thing into a nail-biter that Prosser could easily lose. And this has major implications: Walker’s chief counsel admitted in an email that Prosser was vital to their anti-worker agenda. With the balance of power on the state Supreme Court in jeopardy, that changes how far outside the law Walker and his gang can operate.
And the state Supreme Court race isn’t the only example. Walker’s handpicked candidate to replace him as Milwaukee County Executive got thrashed last night. In the 94th Assembly district, one of three open seats vacated by Republicans who joined Walker’s administration, the primary yielded more votes for Democrats than Republicans. That general election happens in four weeks. And then there are the recall elections. As Democratic Senator Mark Miller pointed out, in the district of Dan Kapanke, whose recall petitions have already been turned in, Kloppenburg won 60-40.
How did Walker respond to this today? By saying that those hippies in Madison don’t count.
Gov. Scott Walker said this afternoon that the spring election results show there are “two very different worlds in this state.”
“You’ve got a world driven by Madison, and a world driven by everybody else out across the majority of the rest of the state of Wisconsin,” Walker said at a press conference in the Capitol.
Walker said he didn’t believe the election was a referendum on his policies, saying the results reinforce Wisconsin’s status as a “purple” state. He attributed other victories by Dem-backed candidates outstate to local factors, while noting that conservative candidates such as Jim Ladwig in Racine also emerged victorious Tuesday. In particular, he said the results in the race for his former post as Milwaukee County executive reflected its status as a “dark blue county.”
Here is an artist’s rendering, based on Kloppenburg-Prosser voting patterns, of how how Walker views Wisconsin.
Obviously he’s going to spin things as best he can. But some things aren’t spinnable. The court battles haven’t gone well for Walker recently and now the electoral battles are shifting too. No wonder Republicans in the state are getting so nervous: they’ve awakened a sleeping giant.