Wisconsin voters re-elected a state Supreme Court justice and the state superintendent Tuesday, both of whom were incumbents who saw support from different sides of the political spectrum.
Justice Patience Roggensack won another 10-year term in the Supreme Court, defeating Marquette Law School professor Ed Fallone, the candidate supported by liberal groups and unions. Another union-backed candidate, superintendent Tony Evers, won his re-election despite running against a conservative.
Roggensack won the race with 57 percent of the vote against Fallone’s 43 percent of the vote, according to The Associated Press. At her watch party, Roggensack, who was supported in large part by state conservatives, said voters preferred her 17 years of experience as a judge.
“If you want to do the work of a judge, it’s nice to have done the work yourself,” Roggensack said.
She said she has always “gotten along” with fellow justices, although Fallone has characterized the court as dysfunctional.
Fallone’s statements were a contrast to Roggensack’s campaign, she said, as her ads and statements have all been positive.
“I also think the voters responded to my positive campaign,” Roggensack said. “I never ran a negative ad, and I think the voters are perhaps a little bit tired of negative campaigning.”
Roggensack had won big in the February primary, which narrowed down the race from three candidates to the two who were on the ballot Tuesday.
In a statement, Fallone congratulated Roggensack on her victory, but he still talked about the need to fix the court’s problems. Among those problems was a 2011 incident with Justice David Prosser putting his hands on a fellow justice’s neck, which Fallone said his opponent downplayed.
“Although I couldn’t manufacture a win tonight, the fight will continue to bring equal justice for all Wisconsinites and to end the dysfunction that has plagued our Supreme Court for the last two years,” Fallone said.
The last Supreme Court election, in which liberal groups tried to unseat Prosser, had much closer results and warranted a recount. It also came during the time of protests at the Capitol and was seen as a referendum on Gov. Scott Walker’s policies.
Evers, the state superintendent, beat a challenge from Rep. Don Pridemore, R-Erin, getting 61 percent of the vote against Pridemore’s 39 percent, according to The Associated Press.
Evers said in a statement the results showed voters support increasing public school spending, which is held flat under Walker’s proposed budget.
“Today’s election offered voters a crystal clear choice between two very different philosophies about education,” Evers said. “Voters spoke loudly and clearly, affirming their commitment to Wisconsin’s strong public schools and calling for a much-needed reinvestment to support the over 870,000 public school kids in our state.”
A number of Republican senators have said they want to increase aid to public schools and have also raised concerns about Walker’s plans on voucher schools. Evers said he looks forward to working with legislators to change the budget in order to reflect the voters’ sentiments on school aid.
Pridemore, who sits in the Assembly’s Education Committee, said he is not ruling out a run in the future. He said the state’s schools have “deteriorated” and are no longer preparing students adequately for the workforce.
“Moving forward, my focus is going to be on improving education,” Pridemore said. “Whether I do it in the Legislature or whether I do it at the [Department of Public Instruction], it doesn’t really matter.”
Pridemore said a big reason behind his loss was more funding went to Roggensack’s race, as it had more immediate impacts. If she lost, he said, the court would lose its conservative majority and overturn much of the legislation passed during the last two years.
Dane County Judge Rebecca St. John, a Walker appointee, lost her re-election race, getting 47.4 percent of the vote against lawyer Rhonda Lanford’s 52.5 percent of the vote with 95 percent of the vote counted, according to unofficial results from the Dane County Clerk’s office.
However, Milwaukee County Judge Rebecca Bradley, also a Walker appointee, won with 53 percent of the vote against Marquette University Law Professor Janet Protasiewicz, who got 47 percent of the vote, according to The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.