We are one step closer to actually caring about State Supreme Court Elections. Candidate Tim Burns has decided that he is going to throw out any pretense of being "non-partisan" and is openly running as a Democratic candidate this winter. He has criticized Governor Scott Walker and Republican legislators every opportunity he has been given and he flat out promises to overturn or strike down any of their laws if he ever gets the chance. Burns even puts a (D) next to his name in his TV ads.
Burns' campaign strategy is the culmination of a long-time trend away from "non-partisanship" in these spring elections. For decades now we have all known where those running for Justice (or State Superintendent of Public Instruction) stand on the "political spectrum"--and you could argue that there have always been "Republican" and "Democrat" candidates in every race. But until Burns came along, that was played out in actual judicial philosophy. Candidates that believe in the limited power of Government and that individual rights are clearly spelled out in the Constitution were going to get the support of Conservatives--while those that believe the courts should be used to advance social causes and guarantee equal outcomes (rather than opportunities) were going to get Liberal votes.
But Burns has become the first Supreme Court candidate to make it publicly known that he would use his position to actively defeat political opponents. In one sentence he attacks nearly every piece of legislation approved by the GOP and signed into law by the governor--and in the next claims that he would not pre-judge cases involving the Governor or the Legislature that come before him. I would point out that he never provides any constitutional grounds for his out-of-court stances on the cases that have gone before the Supreme Court--other that to call them "destructive".
As you might expect, Burns strategy is rubbing off on the other "liberal" candidate in the race. Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Dallet is now running TV ads representing President Trump as a "threat to freedoms and rights". Never mind that the State Supreme Court would never hear matters involving Federal laws, Dallet wants everyone to know where she stands politically--in an effort to recruit "straight party" voters that appreciate Burns' brutal honesty about his affiliations.
Now, I don't want you to think that the third man in the race--Sauk County Judge Michael Screnock--is a pillar of non-partisanship either. His campaign is getting big-time help from the state Republican party--including cash donations.
It's just a matter of time before the pretense of non-partisan judgeships (and School Superintendents) is eventually dropped--and these positions move to the fall partisan election cycles--where turnout will be more than 20% every year. Then they can feature the ugly attack ads that we have come to expect with all elections--not to mention the over-the-top spending, the claims of voter suppression efforts and allegations that illegal voting carried one of the candidates to victory. And to think, we'll all have Tim Burns to thank for that.