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Wisconsin State Capital in Madison, Wisconsin. Image courtesy of

As if we haven’t all learned that elections are important in a democracy, that every single vote counts, and that our judicial system matters, we have been reminded again.

Yesterday’s general election for the open seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court had national implications in a state where the rollback of Roe v. Wade meant the state had reverted to an 1849 state law that outlawed abortion (when women were still property, and Blacks were slaves). For the first time in 15 years, liberals will control the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

The state redistricting maps are hopelessly skewed toward Republican candidates, a decade-long residue of the tenure of former Governor Scott Walker. This means that a Democrat running against a GOP candidate often has to win by a 20 percent or more margin to actually get elected.

Some may ask ‘What has this got to do with Colorado and those of us in Chaffee County?’ The answer is — a lot.

The race saw an unprecedented $45 million in campaign spending — on a supreme court seat no less —  by the two candidates and dark money groups poured funding into this single race. According to mega-donors ran up the spending one massive campaign check after the other — particularly on the liberal front.

According to, dark money fueled the Republican Supreme Court Candidate’s anti-abortion views, as they have for decades. It pointed out that Kelly’s campaign has already benefited from millions of dollars fronted by billionaire Richard Uihlein, an Illinois shipping supply magnate with a far-right agenda for courts and legislatures.

The American Independent reports that:

“The five Uihlein-funded PACs include the political arm of one of the largest anti-abortion organizations in the country, a dark money group with a deep history of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, and an anti-corruption PAC that is currently under investigation for illegally colluding with a GOP candidate, according to campaign finance documents reviewed by the American Independent Foundation. Collectively, more than $6 million of Uihlein money has gone towards Kelly’s campaign.”

“There’s just an obscene amount of money on both sides of this thing, which raises some serious questions for our democracy,” said Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Executive Director Matt Rothschild. “The voices of average Wisconsinites are being drowned out, so we don’t have an equal say as to who’s having influence over our elections.”

There was a historic election turnout for a spring general election and that turnout tipped toward independent liberals and Democrats.

While neither candidate declared a party, the more liberal candidate state Judge Janet Protasiewicz won with more than a 10-point lead at 55.5 percent over the conservative candidate former state Supreme Court Judge Daniel Kelly, who took 44.4 percent of the vote.

“Our state is taking a step forward where our rights and freedoms will be protected,” said Protasiewicz, in remarks after NBC called the race for her last evening. During the campaign, she refrained from answering where she would rule on reproductive rights if a challenge was made to the 1849 abortion law.

In response, Kelly is reported to have lashed out at his opponent in his concession speech, calling her a “serial liar”.

The turnout in Dane County, home of the University of Wisconsin (UW), the state capital, and an educated and liberal enclave, was the highest in history, reflecting a younger, independent, and motivated voting bloc.

In monied suburbs of Milwaukee (typically Republican-leaning), the majorities behind GOP candidates fell several points from 2020 and 2016 election results, indicating that this civic-minded, often-progressive, and contrary state might be entering another course correction.

Commenting on the news story by The Milwaukee Journal about the election results, a reader wrote: “I think the fact a statewide election resulted in a huge win for a Dem indicates the degree to which the state HAS to be gerrymandered to get a GOP legislative majority.”

The general election results give liberals a one-seat voting advantage on the highest court in that state. But in the crucial Eighth District of northern Milwaukee suburbs the GOP winner that has given the state’s Republicans a super legislative majority, Dan Knodl, has already announced that he intends to impeach Protasiewicz.

Kelly has Republican credentials. A former State Supreme Court Justice who lost his election in 2020, he advised the Trump campaign on how to proceed to challenge his 2020 Wisconsin election results where he had narrowly lost. The Wisconsin Supreme Court was the only state supreme court in the nation to agree to hear the Trump request to throw out the state’s election results and only one vote separated them from throwing out their entire election results.

The one-seat conservative advantage in the court has also been behind the state’s redistricting over the last few years which has been controlled by a Republican state-house majority and a court with a conservative majority. This has resulted in a Wisconsin legislative district map that is among the most GOP-favoring gerrymandered state in the country.

With reproductive rights on the line and the 2024 election looming, Wisconsin is a state that Coloradans might do well to watch.

Editor’s note: Publisher and Managing Editor Jan Wondra knows Wisconsin. She was born and grew up in northwestern Wisconsin, and attended the UW system in Madison. For a time she ran a marketing firm in Elm Grove, Wisconsin only half a block from the Wisconsin 5th Congressional District Representative, GOP Jim Sensenbrenner’s office, before coming to her senses and returning to Colorado in 1997.