Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Recount possible as Supreme Court race remains too close to call

I haven't mentioned this, but there was a major election yesterday, with national implications, obscured by the budget mess in Washington. In the state of Wisconsin, there were elections for some local offices, and for one of the seven spots on the state's Supreme Court. This is a (nominally) non-partisan race, which would not normally carry much interest outside the state. But this year is different.

Currently, the state Supreme Court has a 4-3 "conservative" majority. I use that term to mean that the court tends to do things that court's should do, like interpreting the constitution, and less of things that courts should not do, like legislating from the bench according to their personal policy preferences. One of the four conservatives, David Prosser, has been running for re-election against an assistant attorney general named JoAnne Kloppenburg. This didn't look like much of a contest two months ago.

And then the legislature passed, and Governor Walker signed, the "budget-fix" bill to deal with Wisconsin's deficit. I've written about that, and the struggle that's taking place between the Governor and Republican legislators on one side, and the Democrats and public sector unions on the other. The unions are furious and scared by what's happened, and will attempt to do anything they can to get the new law invalidated. With the current court configuration, that's unlikely, as there's nothing unconstitutional about the law or the way it was passed.

But if Kloppenburg beats Prosser, it switches to a 4-3 liberal majority, and the chances of it being invalidated for some reason go up significantly. This is a non-partisan election, but everyone understands the situation, and money has poured into the state from union interests nationwide, with late response and support for Prosser from Tea Party supporters who recognize the importance of this battle.

I expected to know this morning, but apparently it is still too close to call. Prosser leads, but by only 500-600 votes, and there's certain to be a recount. Unfortunately, we all know what tends to happen to small Republican leads when recounts take place - it gives the Democrats time and opportunity to "find" or manufacture the votes they need. (Ask Senator Franken...)

So we'll have to wait for a while longer for an answer.

But there's an interesting lede in this AP story about the race...
The race between Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser and challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg remained too close to call late Tuesday, with a couple thousand votes out of more than 1.4 million cast separating the two sides — a result that could lead to a recount.

The nonpartisan matchup between Prosser, a self-described judicial conservative, and Kloppenburg, an assistant attorney general who has vowed to be impartial on the bench, drew more special-interest money and attention than any Supreme Court race in state history.
What do you now know about those non-partisan candidates? That one is a "self-described conservative" and the other is "impartial." Yes, that's not exactly what it says, but that's how it reads. Here's the interesting thing - Kloppenburg can claim that she'll be impartial on the bench, but that doesn't make it so. Any fool running for a non-partisan judicial position would make that claim, so it's meaningless rhetoric. The fact is, she, and her supporters, have run a campaign making it clear that she'll be a vote on the court against the bill.

You might remember that I wrote about a "Simpsons moment" during the Brown/Coakley race two years ago, as both candidates were putting up signs making exactly the same point. With Brown and Coakley, both argued that Brown was a vote against Obamacare. While Prosser didn't campaign in favor of the new "budget fix" law in Wisconsin, Kloppenburg, or at least her supporters, sure campaigned against it. Again, she can claim "impartiality" all that she likes - no one believes it. And so, while the lede to that story is all factual, it's a lie, truth warped to support the media storyline...

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