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Waukesha County Judge Jennifer Dorow expected to enter State Supreme Court contest

Judge Jennifer R. Dorow presides over a hearing for Darrell Brooks Jr. Friday, Aug. 26, 2022 in Waukesha County Court in Waukesha, Wis. Judge Dorow said Monday, Nov. 28, 2022 that she will make a decision on whether to run for the Wisconsin Supreme Court “in the coming days.”
Chuck Quirmbach
Waukesha County Judge Jennifer Dorow on Nov. 16, 2022, the day she sentenced Darrell Brooks to prison for his actions at the Waukesha Christmas parade in 2021. Photo from video screen in Waukesha County Courthouse media room.

When most people last heard from Waukesha County Judge Jennifer Dorow a couple weeks ago, she was sentencing Darrell Brooks to six consecutive life terms in prison

"On counts one through six, this court is imposing a life sentence, without the possibility or eligibility for extended supervision, consecutive to one another," Dorow said from the bench.

Dorow didn't stop there. She added more than 750 additional years to Brooks' sentence, pertaining to the other 70 crimes for which a jury had found him guilty.

The case, of course, involved the Milwaukee man using his vehicle to kill six people and injure dozens during last year's Waukesha Christmas parade.

Now, after a week or so of Dorow saying she's been thinking of running for Wisconsin Supreme Court—the Associated Press and other media outlets report—Dorow's husband says she will announce her candidacy Wednesday afternoon in Waukesha.

Lilly Goren is a professor of Political Science at Carroll University in Waukesha. Goren says she's not surprised Dorow is making a bid to move up.

Dr. Lilly Goren, Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Department of History, Political Science and Religious Studies
Dr. Lilly Goren, Professor of Political Science and Chair of the Department of History, Political Science and Religious Studies

"She did sort of establish a very high profile during the three weeks of the Waukesha parade trial—not just in Wisconsin, but extending beyond Wisconsin," Goren tells WUWM.

Court TV covered the trial, and NPR and other national media ran some stories about it.

Goren says a political hurdle for Dorow is that former State Justice Dan Kelly is already in the Supreme Court race, with the backing of some conservatives. Dorow is thought to lean conservative. Goren says it's hard to say if Dorow sees Kelly, who lost an election bid in 2020, as vulnerable.

"I don't know if she didn't think it was a solid sort of situation for him. Or, if her sort of higher profile and the response she was receiving from people, and the news media coverage, indicated to her that she can be a real contender with the conservative bloc in the election," Goren says.

The more liberal bloc in Wisconsin is already behind two other State Supreme Court candidates—either Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz or Dane County Judge Everett Mitchell.

The Wisconsin Democratic Party is blasting Dorow as "an extremist" appointee of former Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

The now four judicial candidates are running to replace Justice Patience Roggensack, who is retiring. Roggensack has been part of a 4-3 conservative majority on the court. The February primary and April general elections are expected to draw millions of dollars in campaign donations and national interest as liberals hope to gain control of the state court.

Kelly, Mitchell and Protasiewicz all released statements Tuesday, either criticizing Dorow, or promoting their own candidacy.

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