Democrats Score Another Major Victory in a State Trump Narrowly Carried

In a dramatic victory that’s indicative of the shifting political winds in Wisconsin, progressive Judge Rebecca Dallet has been elected to the state Supreme Court. She defeated conservative Judge Michael Screnock 56.5-43.5 percent (with 43 percent of precincts reporting as of press time) in this statewide contest.


Tuesday’s Supreme Court election was officially nonpartisan, but the ideological battle lines were clearly drawn. Former Vice President Joe Biden recorded a robocall for Dallet, and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee spent at least $165,000 on the race. Screnock, meanwhile, had the backing of Gov. Scott Walker and the National Rifle Association, and a notoriously anti-union business lobby had dumped in almost $1 million on ads as of last Friday.

Dallet’s victory moves the ideological makeup of the Wisconsin Supreme Court from five-to-two in favor of conservatives to four-to-three and secures her a 10-year term on the bench. Progressives are now well-positioned to end the conservative court majority in the next few years—and with that, a way to finally place a brake on extreme Republican gerrymandering and voter suppression tactics.

Additionally, Dallet’s win means that six of the seven justices on the high court are now women. That ties the Badger State with Washington for the largest number of women Supreme Court justices, and it breaks the tie with Oregon for the highest percentage of women justices on the state’s top court.  

Dallet’s win also extends the trend of progressives’ growing strength in Wisconsin. When Democrats flipped a historically and solidly Republican state Senate seat in January, Walker freaked out on Twitter. Walker had already decided he was going to try to sidestep the obvious trend of Democratic success in special elections by leaving a state Assembly and a state Senate seat vacant for over a year, a move that was recently and thoroughly smacked down by a state court judge—a Walker appointee, no less.

Walker and GOP lawmakers then attempted (and failed) to literally outlaw the special elections through emergency legislation before getting smacked down by two more courts. These are not the actions of a party in a position of strength.

And tonight’s results should have Wisconsin Republicans in paroxysms of fear. While the formally nonpartisan nature of this election means that comparisons to partisan races must be made carefully, Dallet’s 13-point margin of victory represents a shift of 12 points from Donald Trump’s narrow 47.2-46.5 win in 2016. If Democrats can replicate this swing in partisan races this November, Wisconsin Republicans are going to have pretty lousy election night at every level of the ballot—and that includes Walker.

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