Currently, judicial conservatives enjoy a 4-3 majority on Wisconsin’s elected supreme court. Justice Patience Roggensack, a judicial conservative, is not seeking reelection, creating a vacancy which will decide control of the court. Four candidates are facing off in the primary election on February 21. Early voting for the primary started February 7. The top two vote-getters will advance to the general election on April 4.
The race will be hotly contested, attracting significant national media attention and political spending, with some Wisconsin activists and commentators estimating that the cost of the race will total tens of millions of dollars among the candidates and outside groups.
The constitutionality of Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion law, which seems certain to appear before the court in the near future, will be a key campaign issue during the general election. Under Wisconsin law, intentionally performing an abortion after the unborn child reaches viability is a felony, with an exception for preserving the life or health of the woman.
Below are the latest fundraising figures and endorsements for each candidate.
Waukesha County Chief Judge Jennifer Dorow was appointed to the bench by former Gov. Scott Walker (R) in 2011 and has been reelected since. Previously, Judge Dorow worked as an assistant district attorney for Waukesha County and as a criminal defense attorney. She raised $307,000 during 2022 and ended the year with $283,000 cash on hand (report).
Judge Dorow has positioned herself as a judicial conservative.
- Justice Patience Roggensack (retiring)
- Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R)
- Fond du Lac DA Eric Toney
- 42 County Sheriffs
Former Justice Daniel Kelly was appointed by Gov. Walker in 2016 to serve the remainder of a retiring justice’s term. He lost his reelection bid to Justice Jill Karofsky in 2020. Before joining the bench, Justice Kelly worked as an attorney practicing civil litigation and business law. He ended 2022 with $276,000 cash on hand. He raised nearly $314,000 during 2022 and spent just shy of $57,000 (report). Fair Courts America, a conservative political action committee supported by businessman and Republican donor Dick Uihlein, has promised to spend millions of dollars supporting Kelly’s campaign.
Justice Kelly has positioned himself as a judicial conservative. In a recent interview, he declined to promise to endorse Judge Dorow in the event that she wins the primary over him. Dorow, on the other hand, has stated that she will endorse Kelly if she loses. Referring to his regrets about endorsing Justice Brian Hagedorn in 2019, Kelly said, “I will promote judicial conservatism in any way I can. I don’t want to go to the people again and say I endorse a candidate when I don’t know what that candidate will do.” Justice Hagedorn has acted as a “swing” vote on some issues, joining with the court’s liberal wing in a series of 4-3 decisions on issues such as redistricting and the public release of businesses’ COVID-19 data.
- Justice Rebecca Bradley
- Appellate Judge Shelley Grogan
- 19 County Sheriffs
Dane County Judge Everett Mitchell serves as presiding judge of the county court’s juvenile division. He first won election in 2016 and was reelected in 2022. Before that, he was an assistant district attorney in Dane County and worked as director of community relations for the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Judge Mitchell raised $140,000 in 2022 and spent $72,000, ending the year with $72,000 cash on hand (report).
Judge Mitchell has positioned himself as a judicial liberal.
- Former Gov. Jim Doyle (D)
- Former Justice Louis Butler
- One state senator and seven representatives
Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz was first elected to the bench in 2014 and reelected in 2020. Previously, she worked as an assistant district attorney in Milwaukee County for 26 years. Judge Protasiewicz got off to an early lead in both fundraising and campaign spending. She raised just over $920,000 in 2022, ending the year with $735,000 cash on hand after spending $185,000 during the second half of the year (report).
Judge Protasiewicz has positioned herself as a judicial liberal.
- Justice Rebecca Dallet
- Appellate Judge Lisa Neubauer
- Six state senators and 13 representatives
For previous coverage of the 2023 Wisconsin Supreme Court race, see the following articles: