DemDaily: Tuesday’s Election Results! Wisconsin and Virginia

February 22, 2023 

Two elections took place yesterday - both in battleground states.

Wisconsin State Supreme Court Primary Election
In perhaps the most consequential election of 2023, liberal Circuit Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz and conservative former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, as the top two vote-getters in yesterday's State Supreme Court primary, are advancing to the April 4, 2023 general election.

In the nonpartisan primary to succeed retiring conservative Justice Patience Roggensack, Protasiewicz secured 46.4% to Kelly's 24.2%. Conservative Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dorow, who was endorsed by Roggensack, followed with 21.9%, and liberal Dane County Circuit Court judge Everett Mitchell with 7.5%.

The outcome of the 2023 contest will determine the ideological balance of the court -- with sweeping consequences for the future of reproductive rights, redistricting, and a range of voting rights issues.

During the 15 years that conservatives have dominated the court, they have sided with Republican efforts to dismantle public unions, enhance voting restrictions and ban absentee voting ballot drop boxes.

Wisconsin is also operating under one of the most gerrymandered maps in the country after the court ruled in favor of Republican legislative maps following the 2020 redistricting.

Most significantly, if Protasiewicz prevails in April, flipping the court's 4-3 conservative majority in favor of liberals, they may be able to overturn the state's new ban on abortion. The ban stems from an 1849 law that was triggered into effect last summer after the US Supreme Court decision overturning the federally protected right to an abortion under Roe v. Wade.

Control of the high court could also impact the 2024 presidential race. The court came within one vote of overturning President Joe Biden's win in the state in 2020 in response to a lawsuit filed by former President Donald Trump.

Outside interest groups have poured in excess of $9 million dollars in advertising into the race, which is widely expected to become the most expensive supreme court election in history.

In 2020, Biden reclaimed Wisconsin as blue by a narrow 0.63% over Trump, who had won it in 2016 by 0.77% against Hillary Clinton. Biden won Virginia in 2020 with 54.11% to Trump's 44%.

Virginia Fourth Congressional District Special Election
Democrat Jennifer McClellan prevailed in yesterday's congressional special election, becoming the first Black woman to represent Virginia in Congress.

She handily defeated Republican Navy veteran and pastor Leon Benjamin, 74.3% to 25.7%, in the race to complete the term of the late Congressman Donald McEachin (D), who passed away last November after a battle with cancer.

The heavily Democratic Fourth District, represented by McEachin for six years, comprises the city of Richmond, parts of Henrico County, Petersburg and south toward the rural counties along Virginia’s border with North Carolina.

McClellan, an attorney and Vice Chair of the Virginia Legislative Black Caucus, won a 2017 special election for her Richmond-based state Senate seat after McEachin was elected to Congress in 2016. She previously served in the House of Delegates for six terms.

McClellan was a candidate in the 2021 Democratic primary for governor of Virginia, coming in third place to nominee and former Governor Terry McAuliffe.

She is Chair of Virginia’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commission and in 2021 led passage of the Voting Rights Act of Virginia, the first state-level voting rights act in the South.

Related: DemDaily: The Weight of Wisconsin 2/13/23

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: CNN, New York Times, Richmond Times-Dispatch, TMJ4, PBS Wisconsin

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