Election Lessons

Yesterday’s primary election had no big surprises, but there were a few small ones. Let’s review.

Protasiewicz coasts. On Paczki Day, Milwaukee Circuit Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz got 46% of the vote in a four-way race. She was expected to come out on top but her 38 point margin over fellow liberal Judge Everett Mitchell was something of a surprise. It suggests that liberals have coalesced early around a candidate they think can win.

Janet Protasiewicz won big.

Liberals win by eight points. While Mitchell only got 8% you can add that to Protasiewicz’s total since every one of his votes will go to her. That gives liberals a comfortable 54% to 46% lead heading into the general election on April 4th. Of course, more voters will show up then, so this doesn’t predict a liberal victory, but it’s a good sign.

Dane County turnout was strong. There were 140,000 votes cast in the Supreme Court race in Dane County. In 2021, the last time there was a statewide race on the February primary ballot, only 50,000 votes were cast. That’s an indication that vote totals out of Dane County will be staggering in April, another big advantage for Protasiewicz.

Democrats got the opponent they wanted. In the close race for the ostensible Republican nomination, former Justice Dan Kelly narrowly defeated Judge Jennifer Dorow. Kelly probably owes his victory to the shadowy liberal group calling itself “A Better Wisconsin Together.” They spent over $2 million to attack Dorow, betting that Kelly would be easier to beat in the general election. (A Better Wisconsin is shadowy because it operates in the dark. We have no idea where that $2 million came from. Conservatives have the same kind of groups but they don’t lecture us about transparency in government and the evils of dark money. A liberal dark money group is more galling for the hypocrisy.)

They were probably right. While I’m no fan of trying to pick your opponent in this manner, the Democrats/liberals are probably right to want Kelly. It was recently revealed that he was paid $120,000 to do unspecified legal work to help a group of fake electors trying to overturn the 2020 election. You will hear about this. Probably more than once. Because…

Elections as economic development. This will be the most expensive state court race in history — probably in any state. This morning the New York Times told liberals that this is, “the most consequential American election on the 2023 calendar.” Checks will be sent from the Upper West Side, Tribeca, etc. I assume the same thing is happening on right-wing media outlets. Tens of millions of dollars will flow into the Wisconsin economy, well, into Wisconsin TV stations, mostly. But still.

They didn’t win them all. The Democrats also tried to boost Rep. Janel Brandtjen (R-Loonville) into the Republican nomination to succeed long-time GOP Sen. Alberta Darling. But election denier and Trump acolyte Brandtjen went down in flames to mainstream conservative Rep. Dan Knodl. Knodl’s a much better fit for the district, but with the Supreme Court race driving turnout in April, don’t rule out Democrat Jodi Habush Sinykin.

It’s over in Madison. I figured that if Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway got anywhere near 60% it would be over. She got 60%. It’s over.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

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