Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet handily defeated Sauk County Judge Michael Screnock for a ten-year term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Dallet garnered 56 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s election. The bitter battle featured support from political heavy hitters, as Dallet drew Democrats and Screnock attracted Republicans.
As she greeted supporters and celebrated her win, Rebecca Dallet also talked about dynamics in the race for the state's highest court. She bemoaned the prevalence of outside money, and promised that she would recuse herself if any special interests that supported her appear before the court.
Former Vice President Joe Biden and former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder campaigned for Dallet, while the NRA supported her opponent, Michael Screnock. Dallet says she considers her victory a defeat for the NRA.
“The NRA backed my opponent, funded him in terms of sending out mailings on his behalf and I think it’s important for Wisconsinites to be able to stand up against the special interests that have had way too much influence over our judicial system and that includes the NRA,” Dallet says.
Dallet will replace conservative Justice Michael Gableman, who retired. Her victory reduces conservative control of the court by one seat. Dallet says she’s committed to achieving a better balance on the court.
“I know that my message was about fair and independent courts and this was about standing up for that and that’s what people responded to today,” Dallet says.
Meanwhile, Screnock said he was proud of his campaign, in spite of “tremendous outside influence from liberal special interest groups that were willing to say and spend anything to elect their preferred candidate.”
Democrats spent Tuesday night not just celebrating Dallet’s win, but also saying it shows that momentum is building toward a blue wave in the November midterm elections. UW-Madison Political Scientist Barry Burden also considered the possible larger message as he watched the returns come in last night. He says the outcome of the Supreme Court election could indicate what to expect in the fall.
“If you look back even to the special election that happened in the 10th Senate District some weeks ago, that was a surprise victory for the Democrats. They picked up a state senator there in a district that had gone for Trump and leans Republican. At the time Scott Walker tweeted that this was an alarm bell and that he and his party needed to pay attention. I would say that the Supreme Court race this week was another alarm bell and if you begin to connect these dots it looks like Democrats have a lot of energy and excitement on their side,” Burden says.
In fact, Gov. Walker sounded the alarm bell again last night, tweeting that the Supreme Court results show "a risk of a blue wave in Wisconsin." Walker, who's running for a third term this November, predicted that he'll be targeted by special interests who want to undo what he calls his “bold reforms.” When it comes to what Rebecca Dallet’s victory means for the court itself, professor Burden says it signals a move toward the center, for now.
“The court has slowly become more conservative over the past six or seven years. Conservatives have done a good job at winning seats one by one. Tonight’s win reverses that a bit. With Dallet on the court it will be a more even balance and I think it leaves the court competitive for future elections,” Burden says.
And with a Supreme Court race almost every year, Burden predicts more hard-fought battles from both parties are to come.