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The Recombobulation Area’s Wisconsin Spring Primary Election Live Blog
First, go vote. Then, let's recombobulate.
The Recombobulation Area is a six-time Milwaukee Press Club award-winning weekly opinion column and online publication written and published by veteran Milwaukee journalist Dan Shafer. Learn more about it here.
Bottom line from tonight’s results: The left in Wisconsin can win this race. Protasiewicz can win this race. We can claw back from the brink, begin to undo the damage to this state, and chart a new course forward.
I wrote in a column last May that we had the opportunity in Wisconsin over the next 12 months to restore democracy in this state. The first step to doing that was to re-elect Tony Evers as governor. Done and done.
The next step was to elect a liberal justice to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, flipping the balance of power, and opening up challenges to the ridiculously gerrymandered maps that are the Republicans’ skeleton key to holding power in Wisconsin no matter how many statewide elections they lose.
That opportunity is right in front of us, just 42 days away.
Let’s make it happen, Wisconsin.
Daniel Kelly is an awful candidate. But he has Uihlein money backing him. And we just saw what Uihlein spending can do to a statewide race in Wisconsin.
Read this column from Don Moynihan:
Ron Johnson was an awful candidate, too. But the massive outside spending and gutter-politics ads that the Uihlein-backed PAC brought to the race proved to be one of, if not the biggest difference in that race for U.S. Senate. There was no equivalent to the outside spending that they brought to the race. The $26 million from the Wisconsin Truth PAC could very well have been what delivered the race to Ron Johnson by a 26,000-vote margin.
It looks like a good night for the left in Wisconsin, but do not underestimate what’s coming from the Uihleins. It is going to get ugly.
Maps! Maps! Maps!
Some endorsement news from tonight:
WisDems also officially endorsed Protasiewicz. Why is that significant? Well…
In our coverage of polling in Wisconsin politics, we’ve talked many times about the gender gap in the state. The majority of women tend to support Democrats and the majority of men tend to support Republicans. That has borne out over and over again in polling from the Marquette University Law School Poll. That gender gap has been especially pronounced in many recent races, and seems to have been exacerbated by the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Considering some recent election results, you have to wonder if that gender gap is also having an impact on the Republican women who are running for office in Wisconsin. Rebecca Kleefisch was a formidable candidate who was essentially running for 3.5 years, but her campaign blew a 3-1 lead and she lost to Tim Michels in the August primary. Now, Dorow appeared to be the frontrunner to be the conservative candidate when she first announced her bid for Wisconsin Supreme Court, prompting calls from some on the right for Daniel Kelly to drop out, but now she lost in a hard-fought battle where she might end up winning just two or three counties.
It might be time to start asking questions about why this keeps happening.
With that, we have our matchup. Janet Protasiewicz and Daniel Kelly will face off in the April 4 general election to determine the balance of power in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
Dorow is conceding.
Well, here’s something.
Here’s a twitter thread on Republican candidate Dan Knodl, who is anything but a moderate.
The numbers are not looking great for Jennifer Dorow. The Waukesha County judge is doing well in her home county, with 45% of the vote there to Daniel Kelly’s 19%, but she’s not doing especially well much of anywhere else. The margin she’ll net through Waukesha County is significant – she’s more than 23,000 votes ahead of Kelly there – but that might not be enough to carry her through to the next round.
She’s doing especially poorly in some other key regions around the state. Here at The Recombobulation Area, we always pay close attention to the often-overlooked swing region of the Fox Valley and northeastern Wisconsin. There, Dorow is not doing well. She is getting about 16%-17% of the vote in Winnebago, Outagamie, and Brown counties, while Kelly is in the 33%-38% range in each.
Kelly is also ahead in La Crosse County, Portage County (Stevens Point), and Eau Claire County, the latter of which shows Dorow with just 8% of the vote.
Kenosha County has been trending to the right in the last few election cycles, so it's an interesting one to watch for Republicans. Kelly has a narrow lead there, despite Dorow leading in most of the Milwaukee media market.
Ozaukee County has been slow to report results. Unless Dorow pulls some big margins there, this race could be headed Kelly’s way.
The AP is calling the race for State Representative Dan Knodl of Germantown.
It looks like he’s on track to win not only the plurality necessary to advance to the general election, but the majority of votes, as well, with well over 50%.
Knodl had the establishment Republican support in this race. Democrats had made it no secret that they wanted to face Brandtjen, who will come in second. Brandtjen has spent a great deal of time questioning the 2020 presidential election and seeking to overturn or “decertify” the results (which is not a thing). So, will she now accept the election results from the primary, or will she spend years saying they should be overturned? Will the Cyber Ninjas be involved this time?
And on Mobley, he seemed like the inevitable third place choice in this primary, but according to state campaign finance records, he put $100,000 of his own money into this race. That’s a lot of money for what might end up being less than 2,000 total votes.
Over the past few weeks as we’ve gotten closer and closer to the primary, it had been becoming quite clear that Janet Protasiewicz was going to advance to the general election.
Now, as the results come in, her primary night victory looks decisive. With about two-thirds of the results in, she has more votes than Dorow and Kelly combined. Per DDHQ’s live updates, she got more than 68% of the vote in Dane County. That’s significant because that’s where Everett Mitchell is serving as a judge, and he’s only at just over 14% there (though that’s still ahead of Dorow and Kelly, neither of whom reached even 9% of the vote in Dane). She’s even outrunning Daniel Kelly in conservative Waukesha County.
This is a seriously formidable showing for a primary candidate – and for liberal voters across the state, ready to flip the majority on this court.
The Associated Press has called the race. Janet Protasiewicz is headed to the general election.
Out in Waukesha County, it appears that the folks running the reception for Judge Jennifer Dorow, uh, misspelled Dorow on the reception sign.
Less than 15 minutes after polls closed in Wisconsin, Decision Desk HQ has already made a call that Janet Protasiewicz will advance to the April 4 general election.
Curious, readers. What do you think?
Well, here we are again. Another Election Day live blog.
Spring Primary day has arrived. The first big step in deciding the colossal, gargantuan, epic, massive, once-in-a-generation, biggest-election-you’ve-never-heard-of, monstrous-stakes race for Wisconsin Supreme Court is here.
(Have we oversold this enough? Probably not. Several of those adjectives are from actual headlines from national media outlets. The stakes are indeed very high, you know.)
In today’s primary for this statewide race for Wisconsin Supreme Court, four candidates will be narrowed to two for the April 4 general election. That’s the day that we – the voters – will decide the balance of the court – and the future of the state.
The four candidates running include two liberals, Janet Protasiewicz and Everett Mitchell, and two conservatives, Daniel Kelly and Jennifer Dorow.
While it is possible that two candidates of the same ideological alignment will advance in the primary, that outcome is unlikely. It’s possible that two conservatives could advance, yes – and has been the cause of brief bouts of panic around The Recombobulation Area HQ – but is much more likely that one liberal candidate and one conservative candidate place in the top two in the primary, moving them on to the general election.
And with how things have been going with the Protasiewicz campaign – which has been lapping the field in fundraising and gaining key endorsements – it would be genuinely surprising if she did not advance to the general election.
But, as covered here in a recent column, it is with the conservative candidates where the real uncertainty lies. Will it be Dorow or Kelly? The campaigning between the two – particularly coming from Kelly toward Dorow – has been heated. It’s anyone’s guess who will be the conservative candidate in the general election now.
This uncertainty will only last for another few hours, of course. And that’s when things are going to get ugly.
Savor these next few hours, folks. Because while there have been many endorsements and campaigning on behalf of specific candidates in the primary, once the general election race forms in the typical left-right dichotomy, the floodgates will really open. The amount of money that’s going to be poured into this race is going to be staggering. The attack ads are inevitably going to be ultra-negative and just relentless.
Think about what happened after the August primary, when Mandela Barnes, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, was hit with an overwhelming amount of negative (and often racist) attack ads. Outside groups backing Ron Johnson outspent groups backing Barnes by about $26 million. Many of those groups were funded by the same big-dollar donors (i.e. Dick Uihlein) that have been spending big to back Kelly in this race.
And with abortion being such a key issue in this race, you can bet than any national pro-choice groups will be spending big in favor of the liberal candidate — and same for the anti-choice groups on the right. Organizations on gun rights, redistricting, voting rights and on down the line will be making their voices heard in this incredibly important election in this crucial swing state.
So be ready, Wisconsin. Because no matter what happens tonight, the next 42 days from now until the general election are going to be intense.
We’ll be updating this throughout the evening as the results roll in.
PLUS: Dan Shafer will be joining Kristin Brey and Jane Matenaer in a live primary night broadcast of As Goes Wisconsin. Tune in on the Civic Media network!
Dan Shafer is a journalist from Milwaukee who writes and publishes The Recombobulation Area. He previously worked at Seattle Magazine, Seattle Business Magazine, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine, and BizTimes Milwaukee. He’s also written for The New York Times, The Daily Beast, Heartland Signal, Belt Magazine, WisPolitics, and Milwaukee Record. He’s won 13 Milwaukee Press Club Excellence in Journalism Awards. He’s on Twitter at @DanRShafer.
Follow Dan Shafer on Twitter at @DanRShafer.