Liberal win in Wisconsin Supreme Court race could flip US House and state legislature

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Liberal win in Wisconsin Supreme Court race could flip US House and state legislature

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Wisconsin’s newest Supreme Court justice frequently brought up the state’s “rigged” maps during her campaign. Now that she’s been elected, she plans to make good on those promises, which could turn into a seismic power shift in the battleground state that could also help flip the U.S. House in 2024. 

Wisconsin redraws its congressional districts every 10 years to reflect population counts from the census. The state’s maps have been long considered among the most gerrymandered in the country and allegedly give Republicans an unfair edge.


Milwaukee Judge Janet Protasiewicz’s blowout victory Tuesday against conservative candidate Daniel Kelly gives control of the court to liberals for the first time since 2008 and could reopen a once-closed redistricting case. 

Republicans have held control of both houses of the state legislature for years, in part because of the district lines they drew in 2011.  

In 2015, Wisconsin Democrats filed a lawsuit that would give federal courts the authority to decide if a map was too partisan. The case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court but was then remanded to a lower court. In 2019, the Supreme Court once again weighed in on gerrymandering, claiming it was a state issue, not a federal one. 

Wisconsin’s 2021 map also had a cherry-red tilt for Republicans, but Protasiewicz’s victory handed Democrats a huge opportunity to level the playing field. While it’s not a slam dunk that Democrats will take control of the legislature, it could make races more competitive, analysts told the Washington Examiner


University of Wisconsin, Madison, law and redistricting expert Rob Yablon agreed. 

“There has not been meaningful competition for control of the Wisconsin legislature,” he told Wisconsin Public Radio, adding that different maps “would at least raise the possibility that there would be a meaningful fight for legislative control.”

Jeff Mandell, board president of the liberal group Law Forward and attorney at Stafford Rosenbaum, also told the outlet he believes there are ample areas in the state constitution that could be grounds for a challenge.

“There is no complaint or document that is written,” he said. “But there are plenty of conversations going on about what such a lawsuit would look like.”

Ben Wikler, chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, told Roll Call that if Wisconsin had fair maps, Democrats “could be shooting to flip at least two House seats, and that’s 40 percent of the national margin.”

Democrats need to net at least five seats to flip control of the House. 

“I don’t think there’s any other election in America in 2023 that will have a bigger impact on the House majority,” he added.

Political experts have speculated that two U.S. House Republicans, Rep. Bryan Steil (R-WI), who represents Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District, and Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-WI), who represents the 3rd Congressional District, could be at risk if their districts are redrawn.

Nathan Gonzales, an analyst at Inside Elections, listed both districts as two of 66 in play next year.


One Democratic operative the Washington Examiner spoke to warned Democrats not to celebrate too much, calling Protasiewicz’s win a double-edged sword. The same night she won, Wisconsin Republicans also won a supermajority in the state Senate, giving them enough votes to impeach state officials, including the current Democratic governor and possibly the state Supreme Court justices.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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