Judge Rebecca Dallet’s victory in the race for Wisconsin Supreme Court was cheered by Democrats eager for more evidence their party can expect success in midterm elections.
There was celebration at the local, state and national levels on April 3 as Dallet defeated conservative judge Michael Screnock, Gov. Scott Walker’s candidate in the spring election.
“Tonight’s results show we are at risk of a #BlueWave in WI,” tweeted Walker, who is up for reelection this year. “Big government special interests flooded Wisconsin with distorted facts & misinformation. Next, they’ll target me and work to undo our bold reforms.”
Dallet won by nearly 12 points — 56 percent to 44 percent — according to unofficial results reported by the AP. Turnout was 22.2 percent, the highest for a spring election in the state since 2011 and second-highest over the past 12 Supreme Court elections.
Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairwoman Martha Laning called the result a “huge loss” for Walker because his “endorsement, philosophy and politics were on the ballot.”
Dallet’s victory follows a surprising Democratic win in January in a special election for a Wisconsin Senate seat held by Republicans for 17 years — an outcome that Walker said then was a “wake-up call” for the GOP.
Two other special legislative elections — ordered by the court — are coming in June, giving Democrats more chances to build momentum heading into the fall. Walker had resisted calling for the elections, leaving citizens in an Assembly district and Senate district unrepresented for more than a year.
The race for a 10-year seat on the supreme court was nonpartisan in name only, with millions in ad spending and public endorsements from the likes of Joe Biden, Eric Holder and the NRA.
Dallet said her victory was a rejection of special-interest influence on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court.
“The candidate with the most experience in our courts and standing up for the fairness of our courts won,” she said. “I think people are tired 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.”
Screnock said he was proud of his campaign, in the face of “tremendous outside influence from liberal special-interest groups that were willing to say and spend anything to elect their preferred candidate to the bench.”
Screnock was endorsed by Walker and backed by about $400,000 from the state GOP.
Dallet’s victory narrows conservative control of the court from 5-2 to 4-3. She’s the first liberal candidate to win a race for an open seat on the court since 1995.
The court has been a reliable ally of Walker and Republicans who have controlled the governor’s office and Legislature since 2011.
Voters who supported Dallet said they hoped her win would send a message.
Reaction to the results …
Elisabeth Pearson, executive director of the national Democratic Governors Association:
“If January’s special election was ‘a wake-up call’ to Gov. Scott Walker, today’s results were a blaring fire alarm for his struggling campaign. Scott Walker made this race a referendum on his governorship and he lost. This election is the clearest sign yet that Scott Walker is in trouble this November.
"Wisconsin voters have had enough of Governor Walker putting his political ambitions ahead of Wisconsin’s middle-class families. They’ve made that abundantly clear in the last 3 elections, and they’ll have the opportunity to send their message even more directly come November. Scott Walker's loss couldn’t have been clearer if his name were on the ballot: Walker put his resources, his credibility, and his brand on the line and voters clearly rejected him.”
Eric H. Holder Jr., chairman of the NDRC and 82nd attorney general of the United States:
“Judge Rebecca Dallet will be an independent voice for fairness and common sense on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Under the leadership of Scott Walker and his administration, the right to vote has been systematically attacked and the concerns of corporations, outside special interests and the Republican party placed ahead of the people. Today, the voters of Wisconsin took a critical first step toward a state government that better reflects their needs and interests.”
Phil Neuenfeldt, president of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO:
“On Tuesday night, the hard work of countless union members paid off as Wisconsin elected Rebecca Dallet to Wisconsin’s Supreme Court and elected pro-union candidates up and down the ballot all across the state. Working families have been knocking on neighbor’s doors and calling fellow union brothers and sisters to spread the word on endorsed candidates and educate why Rebecca Dallet is the best choice for Wisconsin’s Supreme Court. This victory for working people is one step in our continued fight to unrig an economic and political system that is stacked against working people.”
Stephanie Bloomingdale, Secretary-Treasurer of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO:
“Tonight’s election results show that Wisconsinites want to put a check on Gov. Scott Walker and signals a shift in Wisconsin as momentum continues to build for candidates who run on platforms of protecting the rights of the people not the wants of corporate special interests. The Wisconsin labor movement’s activism and mobilization will continue throughout 2018 as we work to lift up candidates who fight for working people and protect the freedom to collectively bargain.”
Chris Ott, executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin:
“The results of this election show the importance of voting. By turning out, voters help to set the direction of our state for years to come. But our work is not done. We will continue to focus on turnout and giving voters information about where candidates stand on civil rights and liberties.”
Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, co-founder of Giffords:
“The people of Wisconsin recognized that Judge Dallet has the courage and tenacity to ensure justice and safety for all Wisconsin communities. They elected her to serve because they know she is not beholden to special interests and won’t back down from holding the powerful accountable. Our fight to address the gun violence crisis that has hurt states like Wisconsin will require public servants who are ready to uphold the laws that can stop its spread. We are proud to congratulate a courageous leader like Judge Dallet on her victory.”
One Wisconsin Now executive director Scot Ross:
“Scott Walker, you hear that WAKE UP CALL?”