A bitter battle over a seat on Wisconsin's Supreme Court ended late Tuesday with a Milwaukee judge claiming victory. But who is Rebecca Dallet? The liberal judge's state Supreme Court victory has chipped away at conservatives' hold on the court and has Democrats across the country pumped for the November midterm elections.
While elections for state Supreme Court seats are technically nonpartisan, Dallet's victory is being heralded as a win for Wisconsin Democrats. In defeating Sauk County Circuit Court Judge Michael Screnock for the seat, Dallet brings the court's conservative majority down from two votes to just one. According to CNN, Dallet's victory is also the first time a liberal judge who was not an incumbent has won a seat on the state's Supreme Court in more than 20 years.
For some, Dallet's win is a bellwether for the midterm elections slated to be held later this year. Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairwoman Martha Laning told TIME that Dallet's win was a "huge loss" for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican who'd backed Screnock. Indeed, even Walker seemed fearful of what Dallet's victory might mean for the midterms.
"Tonight's results show we are at risk of a #BlueWave in WI," the governor tweeted late Tuesday as the election results came in. "Big government special interests flooded Wisconsin with distorted facts & misinformation. Next, they'll target me and work to undo our bold reforms" he wrote in a separate tweet. "We need to keep moving #WIForward & make sure a #BlueWave of outside special interest money doesn’t take us backward."
According to her campaign, Dallet has served as a Milwaukee County circuit judge since 2008 (she won a re-election in 2014) and has presided "over almost 12,000 cases and more than 230 jury trials in a wide range of areas." Prior to her election to the Milwaukee County Circuit Court, Dallet worked as a prosecutor for the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office and for the U.S. district attorney. Dallet's experience also includes time as a chief court commissioner for Milwaukee County. She currently lives in Whitefish Bay with her husband and three daughters.
In a Q&A with the Wisconsin State Journal, Dallet said she was inspired to run for the state's Supreme Court after the court ruled to halt the 2015 John Doe II investigation into whether or not Gov. Walker had illegally coordinated with conservative groups to raise money. Dallet has argued that state Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman should have recused himself from the case as he'd accepted $2.25 million in campaign donations from one of the groups involved in the investigation. "Special interests should not be able to pour millions into judicial elections to ensure they have undue influence over Wisconsin's highest court," Dallet told the Wisconsin State Journal.
As part of her campaign, Dallet promised to "work to establish a stronger, clear recusal rule" in an effort to stop what she has called "the undue influence" of special-interest dollars. She argued the state's Supreme Court had become "broken and dysfunctional" as a result of special-interest dollars. "When our courts are bought and paid for by special interests, the people of Wisconsin don’t have a chance at a fair shake when they enter the courtroom," she told the Wisconsin State Journal.
Dallet's victory follows Wisconsin Democrats' surprising state Senate seat win in a special election held in January. Democratic nominee Patty Schachtner flipped a seat in the state Senate that Republicans had reportedly held for 17 years and which President Donald Trump had won by roughly 17 points in the 2016 presidential election.
Dallet will sworn into her seat in August. She will be the sixth woman to have served on Wisconsin's Supreme Court.