The reason the Prosser-Kloppenburg race was so important has to do with the current makeup of the state supreme court. As it is currently composed, the seven member court reportedly leans 4-3 to the conservative side of the ledger, including the incumbent and presumably re-elected Prosser. Prosser was appointed to the court in 1998 after serving 18 years as a Republican in the state legislature. Kloppenburg is an assistant state attorney general who, according to Bloomberg.com, “has given money to Democrats.” Thus, a win for Kloppenburg would have ostensibly tilted the court in the opposite direction.
The critical context here is the fact that Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi issued a stay against the results of the legislation curbing government union rights, not because of the law’s content, but because Democrats contend Wisconsin’s Open Meetings Law was violated. “It seems to me the public policy behind effective enforcement of the open meeting law is so strong that it does outweigh the interest, at least at this time, which may exist in favor of sustaining the validity of the [law],” Sumi wrote in mid-March. On April 14th, Judge Sumi dismissed one of three lawsuits filed against the new legislation by Democratic County Executive Kathleen Falk, who can’t litigate because state law forbids an agency or arm of government from challenging the constitutionality of state laws. Two other suits, one by the Dane County district attorney regarding the open meeting statute, and one filed by firefighters and other government union workers are still pending. Governor Walker has asked the state supreme court to resolve these issues — hence, the importance of the election between Prosser and Kloppenburg. The court itself remains non-committal on whether or not they will take the case at this juncture.
In a related vein, sixteen members of the state legislature, eight Republicans and eight Democrats, have been targeted for recall votes by citizens alternately angry with Republicans for passing the legislation curtailing union power, and with Democrats for fleeing the state to prevent a vote. Of the sixteen, two Republicans and four Democrats are likely to withstand any challenge, while the rest are uncertain.
Prosser’s virtual victory represents the latest in a string of defeats for government workers in Wisconsin who have refused to concede the reality that elections — and state budget shortfalls — have consequences. And while there may be some people who believe Republicans went too far with respect to curtailing the rights of government workers, much of that resistance is likely to dissipate: the state’s non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau said Governor Walker’s proposed budget would put the state’s finances “in the best shape they’ve been in for more than 15 years.” In a country wracked by economic uncertainty, due in large part to uncontrolled government debt, that bit of reality may be the winningest argument of all.
Arnold Ahlert is a contributing columnist to the conservative website JewishWorldReview.com.
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