Published: Wed, April 04, 2018
Worldwide | By Gretchen Simon

Expensive, partisan Wisconsin Supreme Court race nears end

Expensive, partisan Wisconsin Supreme Court race nears end

Liberal Rebecca Dallet trounced conservative Michael Screnock in the race for a 10-year term on the state's high court.

The win in the first statewide general election in the country this year forced Gov. Scott Walker, who endorsed Screnock, to warn his fellow Republicans.

Walker says the results show "we are at risk of a (hash) BlueWave in WI". "Next, they'll target me and work to undo our bold reforms", Walker, who is up for re-election in November, said.

While the state's Supreme Court seats are non-partisan, candidates have long found ways to send hints about their political leanings, but this year's race was overtly partisan.

Dallet led by 16 points with 30 percent of precincts reporting.

The Wisconsin Democratic Party has lashed out at Screnock as a tool of Walker's GOP, criticizing his endorsement by the National Rifle Association and the hundreds of thousands of dollars he's received from "right-wing special interest groups and the Republican Party".

Screnock said he was devoted to the rule of law and a strict interpretation of the Constitution, arguments that winning conservative candidates have used in recent state Supreme Court elections.

Dallet tells The Associated Press that her win shows "people are exhausted of what's been going on in our state in terms of the money coming in to buy these elections and people spoke out tonight".

And while one race is not enough to predict the outcome of the 2018 midterms, Dallet's win is still significant.

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Screnock himself, who was interviewed by BuzzFeed News shortly before election was called for Dallet, brushed off the idea that a win in a swing state like Wisconsin signals that the the country is in a wave - and that it was Dallet who politicized the race and made it about the rest of the country.

Screnock was endorsed by Walker and backed by about $400,000 from the state GOP.

The victory reduces conservative control of the court from 5-2 to 4-3. She will join the court in August. It supported Trump in 2016-the first time it'd favored a Republican presidential candidate in 32 years-after electing Republican Scott Walker as governor in 2010.

The run began in November 2017, when they handily won the Virginia governor's race and almost flipped control of a state assembly that had been two-thirds Republican. Former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat, backed Dallet.

"People are pretty motivated on the left, from what I can see", said Doug Clawson, 58, a communications professional who cast his ballot at a Madison public library as cold rain fell outside.

Democrats, who had surprised Republicans in January by flipping a state Senate seat in rural northwest Wisconsin, quickly turned to the Supreme Court race. Two other special legislative elections are coming this June, giving Democrats more chances to build momentum heading into the fall.

Dallet, 48, was a state prosecutor for 11 years and a circuit court judge for 10 before running for Supreme Court. I wish Judge Dallet well, and I sincerely hope she serves us well on the court.

The Democrat quickly worked to define Screnock, who had been appointed to the bench by Walker, as an ideological extremist who had been arrested when protesting abortion clinics.

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