Liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court justice says she won’t run again, setting up fight for control

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The longest-serving current Wisconsin Supreme Court justice and member of its liberal majority announced Thursday that she will not seek another term, setting up a high-stakes fight for control of the battleground state’s highest court.

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley’s decision comes as a surprise after she had previously said she would seek a fourth 10-year term. It shakes up the race on the liberal side as they seek to maintain the majority they just won last year.

At least two current liberal judges — Dane County Circuit Judge Susan Crawford and state Appeals Court Judge Chris Taylor — are considering getting in the race.

Former Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel, currently a Waukesha County judge, is the only announced candidate, having gotten in the race in November.

The primary is Feb. 18 and the general election is April 1, just under a year away.

Bradley, 73, was first elected to the court in 1995. Her victory made her the the first woman in Wisconsin history to join the court by winning an election, rather than through an appointment. Shirley Abrahamson, the first woman to serve on the court, was appointed in 1976 and won election two times before Bradley’s victory.

Bradley is now one of six women on the seven-justice court. She will leave as the fifth longest-serving justice in Wisconsin history.

“My decision has not come lightly,” Bradley said in a statement. Bradley said she could have won reelection, but “it’s just time to pass the torch, bringing fresh perspectives to the court.”

Schimel reacted to Bradley’s decision by casting the race as one against the court’s “leftist majority,” not just a single person.

Crawford, who won reelection to a second term just last week, said in a statement that she would have more to say about that in the coming weeks. She previously worked as chief legal counsel to former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, and as an attorney in private practice fought Republican laws that limited access to abortion, effectively ended collective bargaining for public workers and required photo ID to vote.

Taylor is a former Democratic state representative who also worked as an attorney and as public policy director for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. Over her nearly eight years in the Legislature, Taylor was a vocal advocate for abortion rights, gun control and programs for sexual and domestic violence victims, while also being one of the leading critics of Republicans.

She served three years as a Dane County circuit judge until she won election to the state appeals court in 2023.

Liberals hold a majority on the Wisconsin Supreme Court thanks to Janet Protasiewicz’s victory in 2023 over former Justice Dan Kelly, flipping the court after 15 years of conservative control.

The court has made several key rulings since liberals gained control, including a December decision overturning Republican-drawn maps of the state’s legislative districts.

Abortion was also a central topic during Protasiewicz’s race and the court has since been asked to consider two challenges to a 175-year-old state law that conservatives have interpreted as banning abortion.


Foody reported from Chicago.

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