It’s as if a space alien brought us a message from the future. Forget the present tedious campaigns for public office, 2025 beckons us to pay attention to its news for us. This is followed by a jolt, a reminder that nothing present is a permanent state of affairs.

We have not even adjusted ourselves to the current state of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, of the takeover by the Democratic Party and its partisan priorities, when we learn that the oldest member, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, one of those Democrats, will not run for re-election in 2025. I say one of those Democrats because the Democrats on the Court have made it quite clear that when it comes to matters concerning the benefit of the party, they can be quite inventive in providing for their fellow partisans.

Of course, there is nothing particularly inventive about J.A.W.B. as her chief role over the years has been to be one of the counted noses, less the choir or the preacher but a presence in the pew.

Nonetheless, the news of her impending retirement sent the appropriate emissions to all points political, including that of The New York Times, which had the appropriate headline, “Liberal Justice to Retire From Wisconsin Supreme Court, Leaving Control Uncertain.” Yes, control is uncertain, as the Democrats have a 4-2-1 advantage over the Republicans, with Justice Brian Hagedorn only to have other than partisan considerations as his judicial motivation. Another Republican, or even a conservative in the Hagedorn mold, would significantly shift the Court’s fulcrum under the see-saw which it rests.

That is the problem of having a Court that is partisan in nature even when the office itself is nominally non-partisan. One election this way, one vote that way, and the partisan decision of yesterday – whether ballot drop boxes, redistricting – is just so yesterday. No time like the present to count noses again.

However, to shift the fulcrum, there is the small matter of an election. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, while devoting far too much time to analysis by the wholly predictable Janine Geske, reported two Democrats are considering a run:

State Court of Appeals Judge Chris Taylor, who is a former Democratic state lawmaker and policy director of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Thursday she is considering a run. Dane County Circuit Judge Susan Crawford, a former partner with the Pines Bach law firm, also confirmed she is considering a bid.

On the Republican side, there is former state Attorney General Brad Schimel who narrowly lost his race for re-election in 2018 to the sessile Josh Kaul. Schimel had the unfortunate timing of being on the same ticket as former Gov. Scott Walker who had worn out his welcome and former state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R) who ran an awful campaign against U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D).

But despite the narrowness of Schimel’s loss (17,190), he did not engage in conspiracy theories about Milwaukee’s absentee ballot totals coming in late. Schimel was later appointed a judge in Waukesha County by the outgoing governor and therefore was on the sidelines during the 2020 election.

In 2025, Schimel will have a record free of the Trump-style paranoia, perhaps making him a more attractive candidate. He would also have experience running and winning a statewide race as he did in 2014.

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However, now that the seat on the state’s highest court will be open with Walsh Bradley’s retirement, other Republicans might consider jumping into the race. Herein is the danger for the Republican Party. Should the “MAGA” Republicans decide Schimel is too “establishment,” they could find their own candidate to disrupt Schimel’s candidacy. Would former state Rep. Adam Jarchow, a conspiracy theorist and anti vaccination activist, consider a run? Former state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, who retired rather than run for re-election, is a MAGA favorite for his embrace of every conspiracy theory involving the 2020 election and for opposing Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester). Gableman is only 57 years old. Or perhaps the MAGA wing of the Republican Party could find someone else, someone that former President Donald Trump could endorse on the campaign trail.

It would not be the first time Schimel was thwarted by the extremists within his own party. In the ill-fated 2018 re-election campaign, Pro-Life Wisconsin decided to endorse a third party candidate. That candidate received 47,038 votes, much more than the 17,191 votes Schimel needed to defeat Kaul.

It’s not as if the Court isn’t already on the minds of the Trump wing of the GOP. In 2020, Republicans had a majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court but Hagedorn chose to vote with the Democratic members to end the Trump challenge in the state courts to Wisconsin’s presidential election results. If Republicans had had just one more MAGA-embracing Justice on the Court, the Wisconsin Supreme Court could’ve voted 4-3 to throw the state’s election results into chaos, possibly even adding fuel to the January 6 Insurrection.

A MAGA state Supreme Court Justice might be too late to help Trump in 2024, but we’ve seen how the former president’s past troubles put him in need of a friendly judiciary, preferably one that is pliant rather than principled.

On the Democratic side, will there be pressure on Walsh Bradley to retire earlier to allow Gov. Tony Evers to appoint her successor, sparing the Democrats a divisive primary and giving their candidate the advantage of incumbency? It’s not unprecedented. Walker appointed Justice Rebecca Bradley (no relation) in 2015 for a seat that would’ve been open in 2016, giving her the advantage of incumbency.

Or will more Democrats enter the race? So far, the race has a Dane County judge and a state legislator who worked for Planned Parenthood. Any real lefties left? Perhaps Judge (former state senator) Lena Taylor, looking to make history?

Okay, back to 2024.

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