Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz is focusing her campaign for the state Supreme Court on her belief that women should be able to choose whether to continue pregnancies and has characterized the state’s Republican-written legislative maps as “rigged” — partisan appeals to voters that are turning heads in a nonpartisan election.
Her outspoken campaign escalates a long-used strategy of Supreme Court candidates signaling to voters their partisan leanings, commenting on issues that could land before the court in the coming months.
Protasiewicz’s comments have drawn criticism from conservative opponent Dan Kelly, who has called Protasiewicz an activist who is “a danger to our liberties” and prompted the state GOP to file a complaint with the Wisconsin Judicial Commission alleging Protasiewicz has violated judicial ethics rules.
But Protasiewicz’s approach also is not unique. Dane County Judge Everett Mitchell, a liberal candidate, also has criticized the state’s legislative maps and signaled support for restoring abortion access. Kelly and fellow conservative candidate Jennifer Dorow, a Waukesha County Judge, have promoted endorsements from anti-abortion groups in their campaigns for a seat on the court that is all but certain to hear a lawsuit filed by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers and Attorney General Josh Kaul seeking to repeal the state’s abortion ban.
Robert Yablon, a professor and co-director of the State Democracy Research Initiative at the University of Wisconsin Law School, said Protasiewicz’s comments reflect a campaign practice utilized by Supreme Court candidates in past races and have so far not crossed a legal line.