MADISON, Wis. — A liberal challenger has ousted a conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court justice endorsed by President Donald Trump.
Court candidate Jill Karofsky on Monday overcame a successful push by Republicans to forge ahead with last week’s election even as numerous other states postponed theirs due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Joe Biden also easily won the state's presidential primary. The former vice president’s win was a foregone conclusion after Sen. Bernie Sanders dropped out and endorsed him.
But Karofsky's decisive victory could be viewed as a bellwether in battleground Wisconsin ahead of the November presidential election.
Karofsky’s victory narrows conservative control of the state's highest court to 4-3. Liberal-leaning judges will get the chance to take control of the court the next time a seat is up for grabs in 2023.
Karofsky is currently a judge for Branch 12 of the Dane County Circuit Court. She got her bachelor's degree from Duke University and received her Law Degree from the University of Wisconsin, WTMJ reports.
Karofsky released the following statement to WTMJ after the election results:
"I want to send a heartfelt thank you to the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsinites who made their voice heard in this unprecedented election. I'm honored to have earned the trust of people across this state who believe in a tough, fair, and independent judiciary and I promise to never forget these principles as their Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice.
"I also want to thank my family, including my two kids, my parents, my siblings, and all my friends and supporters. I especially want to thank my staff for their tireless efforts.
"Although we were successful in this race, the circumstances under which this election was conducted were simply unacceptable, and raise serious concerns for the future of our democracy. Nobody in this state or in this country should have been forced to choose between their safety and participating in an election. Too many were unable to have their voices heard because they didn't feel safe leaving their home or their absentee ballots weren't counted. Wisconsinites showed their resiliency by overcoming many of the barriers created by the legislature and the courts to try and silence voters in this state, but nobody should ever be denied their right to vote.
"Over the past several months I've talked about the need to restore the public's confidence in our judicial system. With this victory, I look forward to the opportunity to show, with my actions on the court, that we have a judiciary that is following the rule of law and applying it fairly to everyone in our state. Now, more than ever, we need to instill confidence in our institutions and I'm honored to be a part of that."
Justice Daniel Kelly released the following statement Monday evening following the results:
"It has been the highest honor of my career to serve the people of Wisconsin on their Supreme Court these past four years. Obviously I had hoped my service would continue for another decade, but tonight's results make clear that God has a different plan for my future. I congratulate Judge Karofsky and wish her well as she assumes the responsibilities of this important office.
Although we are disappointed, tonight my greatest emotion is gratitude. First to my family, especially my wonderful wife, Elisa. She has been with me every step of this race, a constant source of encouragement and good cheer. To our incredible volunteers, donors, and supporters: you opened your homes and your hearts to us, which is so typical of the people of this state, yet so exceptional in our world today. We are humbled by your confidence in us, and inspired by your commitment to our constitutionally-guaranteed rights and liberties. To my campaign team, you built an incredible grassroots machine that carried us further than any of the pundits predicted, and you led us through an incredibly difficult time with grace and resolve. You all have my deepest thanks.
As the campaign comes to its close, the work of the Court continues. My term ends on July 31, and I will dedicate every day from now until then to finishing well in my service to this state. My thanks to my law clerks and our court staff, my colleagues on the bench, and the outstanding advocates who practice before us--together you made this privilege of public service into a true joy.
I dedicated this campaign to a simple proposition: the people of Wisconsin are my bosses, and whatever authority we have on the court we receive as a loan from them according to the terms of our constitutions. The expiration of the time and authority loaned to me is a reminder that our system still works--that our Constitution endures through every test and trial, and that here in America the lawful will of the people shall always prevail."
Julia Marshall at WTMJ contributed to this report.