Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Wisc. Supreme Court Race Early Proxy on Walker

Updated 10:15 p.m. edt

It is a close race and it will be a long night if the trend holds. Here is a link to results from Today's TMJ4. Refresh for updates.

end update

Never has a state supreme court election drawn so much attention, but the highly charged judge's race in Wisconsin has become a referendum on Gov. Scott Walker and his anti-worker legislation that stripped collective bargaining rights from public employees.

The incumbent GOP judge on the high court, David Prosser, should have been a slam-dunk for re-election, but he is a close associate of the increasingly unpopular Republican governor. So Prosser has become a punching bag for Wisconsin workers, who are bent on throwing out the current crop of conservatives over the collective bargaining fight.

Assistant Wisconsin Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg has painted herself as nobody's puppet in an effort to cast Prosser as Walker's guy on the court. No one knows how it will turn out tonight, but you can bank on CNN and MSNBC following the vote count closely after they polls close.

“Before this campaign began, David Prosser was polling ahead of JoAnne Kloppenburg,” said Stephanie Taylor of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a group that’s been heavily involved in the race. “So if Prosser loses today, this will signal a real rejection of Republican policies by Wisconsin voters,” Taylor told Rachel Weiner of The Washington Post's The Fix blog.

Many conservatives believe it is unfair for voters to take their anger at Walker out on Prosser, but the state is torn and it is harder to find anyone who does not come down on one side or the other.

"In any other election in any other year, Prosser wouldn’t even be able to see Kloppenburg in his rear-view mirror. But in the past few months, Prosser’s life has turned into a horrifying Hilaire Belloc children’s story: 'David, the Justice Who Was Conservative and Was Devoured by the Public Employee Unions.' The calendar has sunk its fangs into him. And it alone may chart the future of Wisconsin," Christian Schneider, a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, wrote on National Review Online's The Corner blog.

Some liberals feel the opposite. They say Prosser is an ideologue who has shown he will do Walker's bidding.

"Prosser has departed from the state’s best judicial values and traditions to identify himself as a conservative who will make decisions based on his political ideology and his political associations—particularly his association with Governor Walker—rather than the law," John Nichols writes in the liberal bible, The Nation. "His opponent, veteran Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg, has done the opposite, positioning herself as a rule-of-law contender who would serve as an independent jurist rather than an ally of the governor."

The Wisconsin Supreme Court could ultimately decide whether Walker's bill passes constitutional muster. A lower court judge has temporarily blocked implementation of the collective bargaining rules. Those rules were approved in a legislative procedural maneuver that went around Democrats in the state Senate, who had been hiding out in Illinois to avoid a vote on the measure. The Wisconsin Supreme Court tilts conservative by one vote, so tonight's results will potentially play out beyond the petty politics of the moment.

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