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Local News

Protasiewicz Outraising Opponents in Wisconsin Supreme Court Race

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by Henry Redman, Wisconsin Examiner

Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Janet Protasiewicz raised more money in the most recent campaign finance reporting period than her three opponents combined. 

The race for an open seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which will determine the ideological lean of the body, is expected to be one of the most expensive court races ever. Conservative-aligned justices currently hold a 4-3 advantage, but if one of the two liberals in the race are able to flip the seat, Democrats see an opportunity to undo major Republican policies of the last decade — including reinstating the right to an abortion in Wisconsin and redrawing the state’s political maps. 

Protasiewicz is joined in the race by Dane County Judge Everett Mitchell, also a liberal. On the conservative side, former Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly and Waukesha County Judge Jennifer Dorow are in the race. 

During the six-month period that ended Dec. 31, Protasiewicz raised $756,117 while spending $185,523. Over the course of 2022, she raised $924,349 and ended the year with $734,962 in the bank. 

Her campaign finance report shows she received maximum contributions of $20,000 from 14 donors, including Milwaukee philanthropist Lynde Uihlein (a politically progressive cousin to GOP megadonor Dick Uihlein), Democratic megadonor Karla Jurvetson and former Supreme Court candidate Tim Burns. She also received $18,000 each from Operating Engineers 139 PAC and the American Federation of Teachers Local 212.

Mark Thomsen, a Democratic appointee to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, donated $5,000 to her campaign while Sen. Kelda Roys (D-Madison) and Democratic Senate candidate Jodi Habush Sinykin both gave $1,000.

It’s expected that one liberal candidate and one conservative candidate will make it past the officially nonpartisan primary election in February. Protasiewicz has far outraised her liberal opponent Mitchell, who was the only other candidate actively fundraising for the entire six month reporting period. 

Mitchell raised $115,689 and spent $71,962. He finished the year with $72,162 in the bank. His biggest donor was a California resident who donated $7,500 over three contributions. 

The two conservative candidates were much more evenly matched in their fundraising as the competition between Dorow and Kelly continues to split the state Republican party. 

Kelly raised $312,359 while Dorow raised $306,919, even though she’s only been in the race for a month. 

So far, Dorow has spent $23,748 and finished the year with $283,172 in the bank. Her largest donor was a retiree from Hartland who gave $8,000 over two donations. Kelly, who joined the race in September, spent $52,387 and had $276,554 in the bank to end the year. 

Kelly’s largest donors were the billionaires and GOP megadonors Dick and Liz Uihlein, who each gave $20,000. An outside group with ties to the Uihleins has also pledged to spend millions in support of Kelly during the race. Don Millis, the Republican chair of the Wisconsin Elections Commission, also gave Kelly $5,000. 

The Supreme Court primary is set for Feb. 21.

This story was written by Henry Redman, a reporter at the Wisconsin Examiner, where this story first appeared.

Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: info@wisconsinexaminer.com. Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.