Normally, a spring election that features only a state Supreme Court justice running for re-election is not a major political story, but everything emanating from Wisconsin these days is bigger than life.
Such is the story of Supreme Court Justice David Prosser who, in running for a second 10-year term, appears to have lost by just 204 votes of more than 1.48 million ballots cast. Because Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial new budget law that severely restricts public employee collective bargaining will likely go before the Wisconsin Supreme Court to test its constitutionality, this race became highly significant.
The non-partisan Supreme Court is perceived to have a 4-3 conservative bent and Prosser is part of the majority. Therefore, the campaign posed a test for both union and conservative activists who took to the streets in order to flex their respective political muscle. The results suggest that the two sides fought to a draw. At this writing, union-backed Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg has declared victory, but absentee ballots remain to be tabulated and we can expect a lengthy recount process whatever the actual final result.
The voter turnout was extremely high, thus affirming the polarized state of Wisconsin politics. In the 2010 general election, just over 2.1 million people voted. In the normally sleepy April election held yesterday, more than 68 percent of those voting last November returned. In the 2009 Supreme Court election, less than 800,000 people participated, proving the motivating effect of this public employee union issue upon the electorate.
For further detailed insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please contact me at PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.