In Tuesday’s Wisconsin Supreme Court Election primary, Sauk County Judge Michael Screnock and Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Rebecca Dallet advanced to the general election in April. Screnock received the most votes, over 46 percent, according to the latest tally from the Associated Press. Dallet finished second with nearly 36 percent of the vote.
“Tonight’s results serve as proof that voters across Wisconsin value the importance of a fair and impartial judiciary focused on upholding the rule of law and respecting our Constitution and the separation of powers, regardless of their political affiliation,” Screnock said after his primary victory. “I am humbled and grateful for the support of so many Wisconsin citizens, and I look forward to continuing my campaign across our great state ahead of the April 3rd general election.”
Despite a novel approach to campaigning for an open Supreme Court seat and the endorsement of Alyssa Milano, Madison attorney Tim Burns was unable to even win Dane County, his home county. Burns ran as an unabashed member of the Progressive left, but that was not enough to become the leftwing candidate to advance to the general. He only received nearly 18 percent of the vote.
Burns’ campaign style, however, caused Dallet to run to the left during the primary. Dallet campaigned as Burns-lite on issues such as redistricting, Act 10, the John Doe investigation, gun control, and even attacked President Donald Trump in a television commercial. Dallet also claimed that she should be elected to the state Supreme Court because she is a woman, despite women serving as five out of the seven Supreme Court Justices, including Chief Justice Pat Roggensack.
On Election Night, Burns did not commit to endorsing Dallet, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, saying he would need a few days to consider it.
Screnock ran as the judicial conservative in the race and received backing from traditionally conservative groups. He consistently advocated for a judicial philosophy that stated it should not matter what his personal opinions were, what mattered was the law and the state Constitution.
While Screnock did not capture a majority of the ballots cast, his vote percentage was similar to that of Justice Rebecca Bradley’s percentage in the primary in 2016. Bradley went on to win the general election with 52 percent of the vote.
In 2011, incumbent Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, a conservative, won a majority of the vote, 55 percent, in a four-way primary. However, the general election became a referendum on Act 10 and Prosser barely survived against little-known Joanne Kloppenburg by 7,006 votes after a recount prompted by a vote-tallying error by the Waukesha County Clerk.
Despite the weather, turnout was actually higher than expected, according to the Wisconsin State Journal, with 11.6 percent of eligible voters casting ballots.