April 16, 2020 — The April 7th Badger State primary election results were announced this Monday, and former vice president Joe Biden easily defeated Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), 63-32 percent, but that’s not the real story behind the final statewide totals.
The bigger race was an ostensibly nonpartisan state Supreme Court judicial election between appointed incumbent Daniel Kelly and Dane County Circuit Court judge Jill Karofsky. Though the Republican and Democratic labels did not appear on the ballot, both parties were heavily invested. And, with much money being spent and both sides “all-in”, many believed it to be a precursor to this year’s presidential campaign in a state that could well become the deciding factor nationally.
Wisconsin Republicans needed the seat to maintain their 5-2 majority on the court, and Democrats wanted to narrow the margin to 4-3 in order to position themselves to take the majority in the next election; hence, this contest’s importance.
Controversy surrounded whether to even hold the election. Democratic insiders and activists were lobbying Gov. Tony Evers (D) to petition the legislature to delay the vote because of the Coronavirus situation. Evers delayed taking action, but finally went to the legislature a week before the vote. The Republican legislative leaders turned Evers down, and subsequent court decisions backed the decision to hold the election on schedule, virtually the only state that was moving forward with an in-person voting mode.
The announced results gave Judge Karofsky a big 55-45 percent upset win, and whether or not this is a precursor to the presidential result remains to be seen. Some believe the fact that the Republican leadership was insisting on moving forward with the election – with people believing they wanted the election as scheduled because they felt the quicker vote favored them – resulted in a voter backlash; hence, Karofsky’s large margin in what was projected to be a much closer electoral contest.
Democrats fought hard to postpone the election and increase the mail-in facet – and most believe they wanted such because they perceived it favored them – but clearly won the election even under the voting structure that the Republicans desired.