Still, the unusual primary dynamics have left many major players on both sides on the sidelines for now. Both state political parties are remaining neutral between their ideologically aligned candidates in the primary, and so is Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat.
One notable exception there is Fair Courts America, a group supported by GOP megadonor Richard Uihlein. It has pledged its support — and “millions of dollars” — to Kelly.
Assuming two judges on opposite sides of the ideological spectrum advance in the primary, the general election is expected to revolve around clear differences on redistricting and abortion policy.
On redistricting, the court ultimately selected a congressional map drawn by Evers. But it was one that leaned Republican anyway, after the court called for a new map that hewed as closely as possible to the old one. A similar and more protracted fight also broke out over legislative lines — and more challenges to the maps could arise in future years, especially if the balance of the court flips.
“I think it is huge,” Evers said in an interview on the sidelines of the Democratic Governors Association winter meeting last month, specifically citing the redistricting battle. “The Supreme Court has leaned conservative on almost all of the issues. So yes, this is a big deal.”
National party groups that are heavily involved in the redistricting fight — such as the Republican State Leadership Committee and the National Democratic Redistricting Committee — are also planning to play in the race.
The NDRC, Democrats’ main national redistricting organization, is remaining neutral in the primary but has started to reactivate its network in the state ahead of the general election. Former Attorney General Eric Holder, the organization’s chair, is likely to travel to the state for the general election.
Wisconsin’s race has also taken on increased importance for pro- and anti-abortion rights groups in the wake of two decisions this month from the Idaho and South Carolina state Supreme Courts, which recently heard cases on the states’ abortion restrictions. A near-total ban was upheld in Idaho, but a law preventing the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy was thrown out in South Carolina.
The issue could come in front of the Wisconsin court soon. State Attorney General Josh Kaul, a Democrat, has sued to overturn the state’s 1849 law that makes abortion illegal in almost all circumstances. While that case is winding its way through the courts, abortion providers have stopped performing the procedure because of ambiguity around enforcement of the law.