Walker Backlash Roils Wisconsin Supreme Court Race

Wisconsin voters spoke loud and clear in the first chance they had to react to GOP Governor Scott Walker’s union busting budget bill and other antics funded by conservatives like the Koch brothers.

In a close race for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, liberal candidate JoAnne Kloppenburg overcame a thirty-point deficit in just over six weeks to win a narrow 204 vote victory over conservative sitting Supreme Court Justice David Prosser. In 19 counties where Walker carried the vote for Governor, voters went for Kloppenburg.

Walker also lost big in a special election to fill his old seat as Milwaukee County Executive, where newcomer Democratic candidate Chris Abele trounced the GOP candidate Jeff Stone by a 61 percent to 39 percent margin. Stone had outpolled Abele by 18 points in the February primary, just as Walker was beginning his union-busting antics.

The Supreme Court race is especially significant because in the same February primary, conservative Prosser outpolled Kloppenburg 55 percent to 25 percent. The rapid turnaround in both races signaled a massive and swift change in voters’ attitudes toward GOP policies. The seeming defeat for Prosser is also stunning because voters have only ousted a sitting Wisconsin Supreme Court justice five times since the court was created in 1852.

According to estimates by the Brennan Center, outside conservative groups, some funded by the Koch brothers, spent $2.4 million to defeat Kloppenburg, outspending Kloppenburg supporters by nearly $1 million.

The narrow margin of victory for Kloppenburg will likely trigger a lengthy recount process.