There’s no sugarcoating the fact last week’s Wisconsin Supreme Court election was a complete disaster for Republicans. In one of the nation’s most hotly-contested battleground states, Republican Daniel Kelly lost to Democrat Janet Protasiewicz by 11 points, meaning Democrats will now control the state’s highest court for the first time in 15 years. With cases regarding abortion, election integrity, and governmental overreach likely to be heard before the court in the coming years, Protasiewicz’s win is devastating for conservatives in the Badger State.
Given the high-stakes nature of the election, one would expect prominent conservatives to be raising the alarm about the race’s local and national implications. Yet, in the weeks leading up to the critically important election, the 2024 GOP presidential primary consumed the attention of leading conservative figures. While Republicans were busy fighting one another about who would make the best candidate to take on President Joe Biden in 2024, Democrats were laser-focused on taking control of Wisconsin’s highest court.
In the months leading up to the April 4 contest, Democrats poured millions into the race to back Protasiewicz’s campaign. According to OpenSecrets, the Democrat justice-elect raised $14 million, including $8.9 from the Wisconsin Democrat Party. Protasiewicz also received millions of dollars in donations from out-of-state figures such as leftist billionaire George Soros ($1 million) and Illinois Democrat Gov. J.B. Pritzker ($1 million).
Kelly, on the other hand, only managed to raise $2.6 million.
Such a massive difference in campaign cash doesn’t even account for the efforts left-wing groups took to mobilize Democrat voters ahead of the April 4 contest. In mid-March, for instance, VoteAmerica — a left-wing nonprofit — announced it was launching a “Wisconsin Campus Voter Turnout” program designed to encourage Wisconsin’s “233,238 students on 24 college and university campuses” to vote in the election. Left-wing political action committees also undertook similar efforts with eligible voters throughout the state.
Kelly’s humiliating defeat should serve as a wake-up call to Republican and conservative figures that forgoing state and local politics in favor of the next national contest is a failing strategy. Instead of hyperventilating over the next presidential primary or midterm, conservatives should be reorienting their focus towards state and local races that can provide citizens with mechanisms to push back against federal overreach.
In order to avoid more electoral disasters like that in Wisconsin, The Federalist has compiled a list of the most significant elections taking place in 2023 that conservatives should begin mobilizing for right now.
While the 2022 midterms resulted in Democrats gaining a one-seat majority in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, a series of special elections next month give Republicans an opportunity to take back control of the state’s lower chamber. On May 16, the commonwealth will hold elections to fill vacancies for two state House seats (Districts 108 and 163). If Republicans win both, they’ll take back control of the House.
Later this year, on Nov. 7, the commonwealth will also hold elections for a Pennsylvania Supreme Court seat, a Commonwealth Court seat, and two Superior Court seats. While a Republican victory in the state Supreme Court race wouldn’t give conservatives control of the high court, it would cut into Democrats’ current 4-2 majority. In recent years, the state Supreme Court has ruled on numerous high-profile issues such as election integrity and gerrymandering.
Primaries for Pennsylvania’s judicial elections will be held on May 16.
Mississippi, Kentucky, and Louisiana
While Mississippi’s governor seat is occupied by Republican Tate Reeves, Kentucky’s is held by Democrat Andy Beshear, who is seeking reelection. In the 2019 Kentucky gubernatorial race, Beshear barely squeaked out a win against then-GOP Gov. Matt Bevin by roughly 5,100 votes.
In Louisiana, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards is term-limited and will not be seeking reelection. With both states overwhelmingly voting for former President Donald Trump during the 2020 election, Kentucky and Louisiana should be easy pick-ups for Republicans.
In addition to statewide executive races, Mississippi and Louisiana will also be holding elections for their respective state legislatures.
The primaries for Kentucky and Mississippi will be held on May 16 and Aug. 8, respectively. Both general elections are on Nov. 7. Louisiana — which uses a majority-vote system — will hold its primary elections on Oct. 14 and a general election on Nov. 18.
In a majority-vote system, all candidates compete in the same primary. If a candidate manages to win the primary outright by receiving more than 50 percent of the vote, then that candidate is declared the winner. If no candidate receives an outright majority, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election.
For example, if a Republican candidate wins more than 50 percent during Louisiana’s Oct. 14 gubernatorial race, he or she would become the next governor. If said Republican doesn’t get more than 50 percent, then that candidate and the next highest vote-getter would advance to the Nov. 18 general election.
Virginia and New Jersey
In Virginia, Republicans are fighting to hold onto their slim majority in the House of Delegates (51-47) and potentially flip the Democrat-controlled Senate (21-18). Following Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s victory in the commonwealth’s 2021 gubernatorial race, Senate Democrats have worked to kill Republican-led initiatives tackling numerous issues such as education, energy, and election integrity.
Earlier this year, for instance, Virginia Democrats used their majority in the Senate to block the passage of Sage’s Law, a measure that would have required school officials to notify parents if their child begins to “identify” as something other than their biological sex while at school. The bill was named after a 14-year-old Virginia girl who became a victim of sex trafficking after her school concealed her gender dysphoria from her mother.
While an uphill battle given New Jersey’s blue hue, it’s not impossible for state Republicans to potentially take control of at least one chamber of the state legislature. During the state’s 2021 elections, Republicans picked up six seats in the General Assembly. Current numbers in the General Assembly would require Republicans to pick up six seats to have an outright majority.
New Jersey’s primaries are on June 6, while Virginia’s are on June 20.