Unpredictable things will happen next year, of course, but there is a political schedule that must be kept and results will need to be filled in. It will be an off-off year. No national races, no legislative races, except a special election here and there. But still a lot will happen in 2023. Here’s what we can anticipate.
The four Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates will be narrowed down to two in the primary. It’s very likely that one will be a liberal and one a conservative. The liberal (essentially Democratic) contest will be between two circuit court judges, Everett Mitchell of Dane County and Janet Protasiewicz from Milwaukee County. Conservatives (read Republicans) will have their choice between former Justice Dan Kelly and Waukesha Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Dorow.
Also in February. Gov. Tony Evers will submit his third state budget. The previous two were summarily dismissed by legislative Republicans, but this time Speaker Robin Vos is talking about cooperation. His reaction to whatever Evers sends him will be a pretty clear indication of how the rest of the budget process will go.
The general election for Supreme Court will take place on April 4. This is for all the marbles. If a liberal wins the liberals will take back the majority and if a conservative wins the 4-3 conservative majority will remain in place.
Also in April. Madison will select a new mayor or give the current one another four-year term. So far, this has been a pretty low-key affair. Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway hasn’t made any glaring mistakes, but she also doesn’t generate much excitement. Her challenger, former school board President and Paul Soglin aide Gloria Reyes, has had a slow start to her campaign. Campaigns are always about something. Right now I don’t have any idea what issue or idea or personality trait this one will turn on.
Liberals might have wanted a spirited mayor’s race in Madison to help bring out liberal votes in the Supreme Court contest. But given the high stakes in the court race and the quiet nature of the mayoral campaign (at least so far) it looks like it will go the other way. Voters may show up to vote for Supreme Court and be surprised to discover that they’re being asked to choose a mayor as well.
More in April. April 4 will also feature a special election to replace long-time Republican State Sen. Alberta Darling, who resigned mid-term. Her seat in suburban Milwaukee has been trending more Democratic and the Democrats appear to have a strong candidate in attorney Jodi Habush Sinykin. It’s also important because if the Republicans retain the seat they’ll have a veto-proof majority in the Senate while they will be only two seats short of that in the Assembly. This is a long shot but not out of reach for the Dems.
Still more in April. All of the Madison Common Council and at least one open seat on the Madison Board of Education will be on the ballot.
June or July
The Legislature will pass a budget and Evers will have to sign it, veto it in part or reject it altogether. With a projected $6.6 billion surplus he and Vos will have had a nice problem to work out. Will they have done it amicably or will this be another completely Republican document that Evers can only trim here and there with line item vetos?
If a liberal wins in April that candidate will take their Supreme Court seat this month. What will follow will be an attempt by liberal groups and Democrats to get legislative redistricting back before the court in hopes of getting them to throw out the current heavily gerrymandered maps and impose something more fair. It will also mean that Wisconsin’s restrictive 1849 abortion law will almost certainly be struck down. If a conservative wins in April nothing much will change.
All year long
Sen. Tammy Baldwin will be up for reelection in 2024, so we should start seeing Republican challengers testing the waters and getting organized. It’s notable that in the year before Sen. Ron Johnson was up, Democrats were already running hard for the nomination. But Johnson looked vulnerable while Baldwin dispatched none other than former Gov. Tommy Thompson in 2012 and a token Republican opponent in 2018. The quality of the field will say a lot about how confident Republicans are about beating her.
All of which is to say that if you were hoping to get a year off from politics, well, think again. The Supreme Court race alone might be as important as any contest from this year.
A version of this piece originally appeared in Isthmus.