Counterattack in the Dairy State

The Left and union money may have been dealt a death-blow in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Supreme Court incumbent justice David Prosser may have secured a sizable electoral victory against challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg with a last-minute pick-up of 7,500 votes in the Dairy State's hotly contested supreme court race. If the results stand, the left, particularly Wisconsin Big Labor, will have been dealt a serious set-back in spite of the formidable financial infusion and base-galvanization it received from the prolonged public sector union battle that took place in the state's capital. For the right, the results represent proof that bold conservative action will be rewarded by the electorate, and perhaps give reason to be less fearful of relentless intimidation techniques in the future.

Preliminary results put Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg about 200 votes ahead of incumbent David Prosser. Kloppenburg is typically described as a liberal, while Prosser is considered conservative. Prosser had won a non-partisan primary handily, defeating three candidates with fifty-five per cent of the vote. Kloppenburg got half as many votes as Prosser in the primary. In ordinary times, that kind of primary result would mean that there was virtually no chance of unseating Prosser. But, these are not ordinary times in the state of Wisconsin.

Union activists and their supporters on the left threw millions of dollars into a race that wouldn’t normally attract national attention. They turned Prosser’s seat on the high court of the Dairy State into a target, hoping that his defeat would prove how unpopular Governor Scott Walker has become with voters. The election was thus never about Prosser and Kloppenburg’s relative qualifications to exercise jurisprudence, it was rather about angry leftists punishing those who oppose them. David Prosser was the first target, but he’s unlikely to be the last.

Prosser is one of four conservative judges on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, while two of his colleagues are generally described as liberals and the final judge is more of an independent. Thus, no matter the ultimate outcome of this election, the court can be expected to remain reliably conservative on the whole. But, by pouring millions into the attempt to unseat Prosser, the left effectively turned the election into a referendum on Governor Walker and his attempts to reign in public unions and cut spending.

“If Prosser loses, it that will show that Republicans have awoken a sleeping giant in the electorate with their war on working families,” Adam Green of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee said as the election drew near. Green’s group placed tens of thousands of phone calls to Wisconsin voters in the weeks leading up to the election, urging voters to not to cast a ballot for Prosser, whom they described as a Walker ally.

“This continues to add fuel to the tremendous fire of enthusiasm and passion to recall Republican senators that support Scott Walker’s backward priorities for the state,” Wisconsin Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate said.

Democrats were undoubtedly more effective at fueling fires within Wisconsin’s two left-wing bastions: the cities of Madison and Milwaukee. Voter turn-out in those cities were about double what would normally be expected, and both towns are Democrat strongholds, so a tight race was virtually assured.

“You have two very different worlds in this state,” Governor Walker said. “You have a world driven by Madison and a world driven by everybody else out across the state of Wisconsin.”

Now, the scale has decidedly tipped in Prosser's favor. But even if Kloppenburg still has a slim chance of victory, it would be unlikely that she would be seated before the Wisconsin Supreme Court rules on the legality of Walker’s controversial legislation stripping public unions of many collective bargaining privileges. The new court won’t be seated until August 1, and justices will almost certainly hear the case before then.

Out of state groups poured more the $3.5 million into the two campaigns, a remarkable amount for a relatively obscure post in a mid-sized Midwestern state. And, as is inevitably the case whenever a state level election attracts big dollars and passions, it didn’t take long for the campaign to turn nasty.

Tea Party Express funded an ad campaign that called Kloppenburg “an activist judge” whom “big union bosses … can control.” The leftist, union-backed Greater Wisconsin Committee said that: “In the Legislature, Prosser and Walker voted the same way 95 percent of the time, both voting against the middle class.” (Prosser was a state legislator before he joined the State Supreme Court).

The fierceness of the race made it clear that the left wasn't going to give up gracefully. Leftist activists promised that the battle wasn’t over in Wisconsin -- but, if the new election tally stands, perhaps it finally will be.