Conservative and Liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court Candidates Advance to General Election

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Tuesday, Feb. 21, Judge Janet Protasiewicz and former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly advanced out of a nonpartisan primary election for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Tuesday’s nonpartisan primary did not list the candidates’ party affiliations on the ballot, but there were two liberal and two conservative candidates in the race. The two candidates with the highest number of votes — liberal Protasiewicz and conservative Kelly — will proceed to the general election on Tuesday, April 4. The Wisconsin Supreme Court currently has a 4-3 conservative majority, but Justice Patience Roggensack, one of the conservative justices, is retiring at the end of this term. Consequently, control of the court is on the line, and in a hugely important swing state like Wisconsin, everything from gerrymandering to abortion access may cross its docket. 

Protasiewicz is a former prosecutor who has served as Milwaukee County Circuit judge for nearly a decade. She has been endorsed by Emily’s List and two current justices on the court. “Our system works because the law is predictable,” Protasiewicz wrote on her campaign website. “You can read the constitution, the statutes, and case law, and know what to expect, but as we can see on an almost-daily basis, our most closely-held constitutional rights are under attack by radical right-wing extremists.” 

Daniel Kelly is vying to regain a seat on the state Supreme Court, which he held from 2016 to 2020. In 2016, Kelly was appointed by then-Gov. Scott Walker (R), but lost his re-election bid in 2020. Kelly boasts endorsements from sheriffs, law enforcement and Wisconsin anti-abortion groups.

Protasiewicz received 46.4% of the vote, followed by Kelly with 24.2% of the vote. Conservative Judge Jennifer Dorow came in third place with 21.9% of the vote, and liberal Judge Everett Mitchell came in fourth place with 7.5% of the vote.

Read Democracy Docket’s profile of Protasiewicz here.