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Record spending in Wisconsin Supreme Court race still climbing

Judge Janet Protasiewicz's campaign raised more than $13 million this year through March 20. Former Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly's campaign brought in just over $2.3 million.
Posted at 5:17 PM, Mar 30, 2023

The fight over the balance of the Wisconsin Supreme Court has led to record campaign spending that's still on the rise.

"It's staggering, I mean, we've never seen anything like it, anywhere in the country," said Bill McCoshen, a Republican campaign strategist.

According to the latest campaign finance reports, Judge Janet Protasiewicz's campaign raised more than $13 million this year through March 20. Former Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly's campaign brought in just over $2.3 million.

But that's just direct campaign contributions.

"We're already north of $40 million and we have five days to go," said McCoshen.

McCoshen is referring to both campaign and outside dollars. He compared the spending to a gubernatorial or senate election.

According to our partners at WisPolitics, the race is nearing $45 million, almost tripling the U.S. record for a state supreme court race.

Giannis Antetokounmpo, for comparison, will make about that much money next season.

"The voters have to ask themselves, why are all these out-of-state people so interested in a supreme court race in the state of Wisconsin," said McCoshen.

McCoshen and Democratic strategist Joe Zepecki are in agreement that the stakes are incredibly high.

"Who has control of the Supreme Court can make a big difference. When it comes to the policies that impact the lives of Wisconsinites — that's all on the line in this race," said Zepecki.

A shift from the court's conservative-leaning balance could have major implications on issues like abortion rights and state redistricting.

With money flooding in from across the country, WisPolitics said Protasiewicz and her backers have spent around $23 million, and conservatives around $19 million backing Kelly or opposing Protasiewicz.

"Here's the thing. You can complain about it [the money], you can be disgusted by it. The one thing you cannot do, is stay home and not vote about it because so much is at stake," said Zepecki.

McCoshen and Zepecki anticipate high voter turnout, with Zepecki suggesting near-record or record-high votes on April 4.


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