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Wisconsin’s state Supreme Court race is shaping up to be the Midwest’s most closely watched race in 2023, with broad implications for the 2024 election cycle and beyond.
Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates Republican-backed Dan Kelly and Democratic-supported Janet Protasiewicz on March 21, 2023, in Madison, Wis. Morry Gash / AP

Eyes on 2024: Wisconsin Supreme Court race draws national attention

The Wisconsin Supreme Court race will provide some clues about where the battleground state is heading next year.

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Wisconsin’s state Supreme Court race is shaping up to be the Midwest’s most closely watched race in 2023, with broad implications for the 2024 election cycle and beyond.

Just two weeks before Election Day, both candidates met for their first and only debate in the general election. Though the race is technically non-partisan, voters wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell if they tuned in.

The issues raised on the debate stage had little to do with judicial philosophy, and instead resembled a typical partisan debate. Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz, the liberal candidate in the race, was asked about her endorsements from liberal groups and financial backing from state Democrats as issues like abortion rights took center stage. 

“I’ve been also very clear about what my views are, what my personal opinion is with regard to a woman’s right to choose. My personal opinion is that it should be the woman’s right to make a reproductive health decision,” Protasiewicz said.

Former state Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, the conservative candidate in the race, defended his endorsements from Wisconsin Right to Life, an anti-abortion rights group, and clarified the role he played as an attorney for the Republican Party of Wisconsin.

“You obviously don’t know the difference between having a client and being on a payroll,” Kelly said, when Protasiewicz criticized his Republican ties.

“I’ve never been on the payroll of the state party. I’ve had clients because, as it turns out, I’m a lawyer,” he added.

If the partisan implications weren’t clear from the debate, former President Barack Obama tweeted a call to action shortly before the debate, and the Republican State Leadership Committee’s Judicial Fairness Initiative announced a $200,000 digital and mail ad buy to boost Kelly’s campaign.

In other campaign news…

Florida men get heated: NBC News’ Jonathan Allen, Allan Smith and Ali Vitali break down “how the Trump-DeSantis cold war turned hot.” DeSantis continued to ramp up his Trump criticism in an interview with Fox Nation, but said he would focus on running against Biden if he decides to jump into the presidential race. 

DeSantis throwback: Inside Elections’ Nathan Gonzales recalls an interview with DeSantis from his first run for Congress in 2012, writing in Roll Call that DeSantis has changed how he talks about his background.

Dividing line: Former Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday criticized fellow Republicans who won’t discuss changes to Social Security and Medicare during an event at Washington & Lee University in Virginia.

Scott’s summit: Politico reports that South Carolina Republican Sen. Tim Scott is inviting donors to a “Faith in America Summit” in Charleston next month as he weighs a presidential bid. 

Slotkin’s run: The Detroit News explores how Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., is making gun violence a central part of her Senate campaign

Speaking of the Michigan Senate race: Politico reports that Democrat Pamela Pugh, the president of the Michigan State Board of Education, is considering a Senate run

Crime and politics: Crime has become a “flashpoint” in the GOP primary for governor in Kentucky, per the Associated Press. 

Talking strategy: National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Richard Hudson, R-N.C., detailed some of his 2024 strategy to Politico, noting he wants the committee to expand the use of so-called hybrid ads, develop a ground game in districts without competitive contests at the top of the ticket, and recruit candidates “that fit their districts.” 

Refund time: House Financial Services Committee Chairman Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., said his team has returned campaign donations he received from a fundraiser with Signature Bank executives ahead of its collapse, NBC News’ Scott Wong and Rose Horowitch report.

Heading West: Los Angeles Times columnist Mark Barabak has launched a series on the leftward shift in Western states, and how that shift is affecting presidential politics, with his first installment focused on Colorado.

Ballot bid: Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang’s Forward Party is working to gain access to the Arizona ballot, per the Arizona Republic.