Newly elected Wisconsin Supreme Court Judge Jill Karofsky spoke at the Jan. 4 meeting of the Green Lake County Dems & Friends.

 

Judge Jill Karofsky’s win in a fight for a seat on the state’s top court was a bit of a pleasant surprise

The Dane County Circuit Court Judge not only defeated incumbent Wisconsin State Supreme Court Judge Daniel Kelly for his seat on the state’s top court, she won by almost 10 percent, a strong showing in a race that had most pre-election day observers uncertain of its outcome.

Karofsky received 812,520 votes to Kelly’s 679,820. Together, they pulled in just over 1.5 million votes. Karofsky’s total reflects 54.5 percent of the vote; Kelly had 45.6 percent.

In 2019, the last time a spot on the top court was open, Brian Hagedorn, heavily backed by conservatives and Republicans, upset Lia Neubauer in a close race. Neubauer, who had the support of most Democrats and Progressives, had been favored. Hagedorn outpolled Neubauer by just over 6,000 votes, 606,414 to 600,433.

Officially, the contest on Tuesday was nonpartisan, but as with the Neubauer-Hagedorn battle, it was clearly a fight between the state’s two major political parties. 

President Donad Trump had publicly endorsed both Hagedorn and Kelly. Kelly had been appointed to the court in 2016 by former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.

Complicating the Karofsky/Kelly race was a number of unexpected issues. First, the CORVID-19 pandemic kept most people from voting in person on Tuesday. And in some locations, such as Milwaukee, only five polling places were open on Tuesday which resulted in long lines of people waiting for hours to vote.

Because of the pandemic, many voters voted via absentee ballots and there were reports of people requesting but not receiving their ballots in time to vote. Finally, according to other reports, some bags of absentee ballots were found sitting in some post offices after the polls closed on Tuesday, too late to be counted. 

A key to the Karofsky win appears to be the strong voter turnout. Last year, Neubauer and Hagedorn together earned 1,207,564 votes.  This year, Karofsky and Kelly collected a total of just under 1.5 million votes, for an gain of 300,000. Neubauer, in 2019, gained 606,433 votes. Karofsky, who ran a more aggressive campaign, topped her this April by about 212,000 votes. Kelly also did slightly better than Hagedorn,  his conservative benchmate, pulling in about 73,000 more votes than Hagedorn.

View article on the Karofsky/Kelley race from the Wisconsin Examiner.