Thursday, February 25, 2016

Will Scott Walker be a liability for Rebecca Bradley?

Sitting Justice Rebecca Bradley, appointed by unpopular Walker three times, faces tough challenge from JoAnne Kloppenburg

The latest Marquette Law School poll released today indicates that attitudes haven’t changed all that much when it comes to Gov. Scott Walker -- Wisconsinites still, for the most part, are not happy with him.

Nearly 55 percent of those surveyed disapprove of the governor’s performance while in office, while only 38.8 percent thought he was doing a good job.

With less than two-in-five citizens approving of Walker, one has to wonder whether that will translate in the upcoming spring elections. Had he still been running for president (instead of dropping out early last fall), it would have been interesting to see Walker try to win his home state against the apparent juggernaut of the Republican field, billionaire Donald Trump, who has the current lead among GOP hopefuls in the Badger state.

But a separate election could provide some insight into how damaged the Walker brand may be. The Supreme Court race between sitting Justice Rebecca Bradley and challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg is set to be contentious, currently a statistical tie according to the Marquette Law poll.

Kloppenburg, who lost narrowly to Justice David Prosser in 2011 by 7,006 votes (or about 0.93 percent of the vote), is once again seeking to unseat a sitting justice on the state’s highest court. Bradley, on the other hand, is in her first Supreme Court race -- rather than winning election to her current post, she was appointed to the position by none other than Walker himself, who has pretty much appointed her to every judicial position she’s held in her career.

Bradley did win one election to a judicial post, but it was after Walker appointed her to that position. She had the incumbency advantage, and it’s pretty clear Walker had intended to give her that same advantage with his appointing her to the state Supreme Court.

Which was well within his rights to do. There was a vacancy on the court, and Walker fulfilled his duties as governor in appointing a successor.

But now we have a thrice-appointed-in-three-years Walker incumbent on the court facing a challenge from a more experienced candidate in JoAnne Kloppenburg, who, in addition to her serving on the District 4 Court of Appeals, has 23 years of experience as an assistant attorney general in Wisconsin under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

While Kloppenburg knows the law inside-and-out, (she is a Yale and UW graduate), there’s no doubt that Bradley does, too -- she has an extensive list of credentials that shouldn’t be dismissed. But her interpretation of the law mimics that of Scott Walker’s, and it’s clear by recent polling that Wisconsin residents don’t want that any longer.

Bradley’s attachment to Walker could spell trouble for her in the upcoming April 5th spring election, if Kloppenburg’s campaign is willing to make it an issue. It will also be difficult for Bradley to maintain that she’s independent from Walker -- she has donated to his campaign in the past, and in recent cases before the court she’s sided with his position.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out, and to see whether Wisconsin residents are willing to put a Walker-appointed judge on the state’s highest court for a ten-year term.

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