Wisconsin held special elections on Tuesday, including for one of the seats on the state's Supreme Court, and the outcome could have a huge impact on the 2024 election.
Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz, a progressive backed by Democrats, defeated former Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly, a conservative backed by Republicans, to flip ideological control of Wisconsin's highest court, TrendingPolitics reported.
Cook Political Report elections analyst Dave Wasserman tweeted Tuesday night, "I've seen enough: Janet Protasiewicz defeats Daniel Kelly for Wisconsin Supreme Court. The result flips ideological control of the court from conservative to liberal, a huge victory for the pro-choice side."
Conservatives had controlled the Wisconsin Supreme Court for many years and currently hold a 4-3 majority, but that balance will soon reverse as the newly-elected progressive Judge Protasiewicz will replace the conservative Justice Patience Roggensack, who is retiring this year at the end of her 10-year term.
As Wasserman alluded to, CNN reported that abortion rights will certainly be a top issue for the new liberal-dominated Wisconsin Supreme Court this year as it considers arguments in a legal battle over an 1849 law that outlawed abortions in the state in most circumstances.
However, legal fights over election rules and redistricting will also be prominently featured at the high court this year, and rulings favorable to Democrats on both of those issues could have an outsized impact on the coming 2024 election cycle and how it is handled.
Signifying the importance of this one particular special election to fill a state Supreme Court seat, CNN noted that it was estimated as of the end of March that approximately $28.8 million had been spent collectively in the Wisconsin race alone, shattering the previous record of $15.4 million in Illinois in 2004 for the most spent on a single state judicial election.
However, Democrats may want to refrain from celebrating this victory too much, as it may actually end up being short-lived thanks to the result of another special election in Wisconsin on Tuesday to fill a vacant seat in the state Senate, according to CBS News.
State Rep. Dan Knodl (R) defeated Democratic candidate Jodi Habush Sinykin to fill the Wisconsin Senate's 8th District seat that was vacated in November by the retirement of incumbent Republican Sen. Alberta Darling.
That victory gives Republicans control of 22 of the 33 seats in the state Senate, which is the two-thirds majority necessary to both override any vetos from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
The new supermajority will also allow the state Senate to convict and remove from office any civil officers, including the governor and Supreme Court justices, who may be impeached by the Wisconsin General Assembly, where Republicans are just two seats short of a 66-seat two-thirds supermajority.
"This campaign has always been about focusing on the issues, like rising prices, crime, and education, and I am incredibly grateful to the voters of the 8th Senate District for placing their trust in me to represent them in the Wisconsin State Senate," Rep. Knodl said in a statement, according to The Hill. "Whether you voted for me or my opponent, I intend to resolutely and faithfully represent all of my constituents."
While CBS News noted that Knodl has suggested that he would likely not support the impeachment and removal of Gov. Evers, the same cannot be said of Judge-turned-Justice Protasiewicz, as The Hill noted that the Republican lawmaker has been highly critical of and has aimed to remove leftist judges like her, and her specifically, for being too soft on criminals.
In a local media interview last month, Knodl acknowledged that he "certainly would consider" the impeachment and removal of Protasiewicz, and said more broadly, "The judges, the circuit court judges, I think, have failed the community by releasing or not having a high enough bail on these criminals, the perpetrators. And so, they need to be looked at. And Janet Protasiewicz is a circuit court judge right now in Milwaukee, and she has failed."