Incumbent Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly and Dane County Judge Jill Karofsky emerged the victors in the three-way primary Tuesday, handily defeating Marquette University Law Professor Ed Fallone. Justice Kelly who received 50% of the vote and Judge Karofsky who received 37% will square off in the upcoming April Elections.
Voter turnout for the election was marginally higher than previous years with 703,762 votes cast statewide1 as opposed to 534,980 for the Supreme Court primary in 2018.2
Despite Justice Kelly’s victory, many wonder if the Democratic primary occurring at the same time as the Supreme Court election will work against him as a potentially disproportionately high number of Democrats turn out to vote. However, conservatives have not given up hope, as states such as New Hampshire show an unusually high turnout in favor of Republican incumbent Donald Trump despite only token opposition for his party’s nomination on the ballot.3 Justice Kelly might very well benefit from the same enthusiasm driving out conservative voters.
Although the results of the upcoming election with not change the court’s conservative majority, it will pit two very different judicial philosophies against one another. Justice Kelly is a textualist who believes the language of the statute should define its meaning. Judge Karofsky believes in a living constitution and that judges need to “update” the law. The winner of the election will serve a ten year term which will allow for significant opportunity to impact the direction of the state.