One liberal judge and one conservative former justice advanced through Wisconsin’s Supreme Court primary, setting the stage for a contentious battle over the state’s seventh seat on the highest court.

Four candidates – two liberals and two conservatives – competed for two slots in the April 4 general election. Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz and ex-Justice Dan Kelly received the most votes in the primary, advancing both candidates.

The final seat is a high priority for multiple big-ticket ideological issues. Wisconsin’s court will likely hear cases regarding abortion access, gerrymandered districts and voting rights issues. The court held a 4-3 conservative majority before conservative Justice Patience Roggensack announced his retirement.

The court nearly overturned President Joe Biden‘s 2020 electoral victory. With a likely close 2024 presidential race looming, court integrity remains a high national priority.


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Outside groups have already spent $9.2 million on the race.

Protasiewicz was the highest vote-getter accruing 46 percent of the vote. Kelly received 24 percent.

“Everything we care about is going to be determined by who wins this election,” Protasiewicz said to supporters following her advancement. “We’re saving our democracy in the state of Wisconsin.”

“That’s what I’m explaining to people. I’m talking about the ability to vote, to have a vote that counts about women’s rights, reproductive freedoms, the fact that the 2024 presidential election results could likely come into our Supreme Court chamber, just everything people care about.”

Kelly drew a contrast with his competitor, saying that justices are not charged with settling political issues.

“I think they are going to be passionate about supporting their constitution and protecting it from being overturned by someone who is trying to put her thumb on the scales of justice,” Kelly said at his election party, less than two-tenths of a mile away from Protasiewicz’s.

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