Steven Walters
The State of Politics

Supreme Court Primary Very Divisive

Battle of Dallet, Burns and Screnock mirrors national, state political divides.

By - Feb 5th, 2018 02:20 pm
Tim Burns, Rebecca Dallet, and Michael Screnock.

Tim Burns, Rebecca Dallet, and Michael Screnock.

It’s the first state Supreme Court election without an incumbent since 2007, and the three-candidate race mirrors the growing divide in American politics.

Bernie Sanders still your political idol? Madison attorney Tim Burns has the same outrage, and on the same issues, as the Vermont Democrat during his presidential run last year.

Support Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans who have run the Legislature for seven years? Sauk County Circuit Court Judge Michael Screnock has close ties to those Republicans. When he worked for a Madison law firm, Screnock asked courts to uphold both Walker’s Act 10 and the GOP’s redistricting map ruled unconstitutional by federal judges. Walker appointed Screnock a judge.

Want a Women’s March speaker who welcomes the #MeToo movement and who is angry that only 20 percent of Wisconsin judges are women? Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet checks all those boxes.

The candidates’ sharp differences in style, issues and gender deserve more than the expected poor turnout – maybe only 8 percent of voters – in the primary on February 20, 2018.

The average turnout in the last four Supreme Court primaries was 9.3 percent, according to state Elections Commission records.

The two February 20 winners will then face off in the April 3 general election for a 10-year term on the court. The seat is open because the court’s most controversial conservative, Justice Michael Gableman, did not seek a second term.

Burns and Dallet both spoke to last year’s state Democratic Party convention, raising the specter of Dane-versus-Milwaukee split in that party’s two bedrock counties.

In the last three Supreme Court primaries (2011, ’13 and ’16), between 16.1 percent and 21.8 percent of the statewide vote came from Milwaukee County; the percentage cast by Dane County voters ranged from 10.6 percent to 15.6 percent.

Burns, however, is better known among Dane County Democrats than Dallet is among Milwaukee County Democrats.

In those same three primaries, the percentage of the statewide vote from Republican-rich Waukesha County ranged from 8 percent to 11.6 percent. Those are numbers Screnock supporters like.

There are also wild-card intangibles this election season that weren’t there in past Supreme Court primaries:

*Will Wisconsin Democrats, still reeling from President Donald Trump’s win of Wisconsin in November 2016, go to polls in the middle of winter for either Burns or Dallet? Sanders, remember, won Wisconsin’s spring presidential primary in 2016. Wisconsin was one of three states that gave Trump his Electoral College victory.

In a TV ad, the Dallet campaign openly appeals to anti-Trump voters. Trump has “attacked our civil rights and our values,” the ad says. Dallet then promises, “I’ll keep protecting our rights, and defending our values.”

In a WisconsinEye interview, Burns said Trump’s record justifies impeachment hearings.

*How little – or how much – should be made of the upset win by Democrat Patty Schachtner in a special election in the 10th State Senate district, which borders Minnesota. Was that really the first sign of a coming Democratic “wave”? Or is Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald right: the Republican candidate, Rep. Adam Jarchow, was from the “wrong” part of the district.

*Will Dallet get help from #MeTooers, who listen when she demands more female judges? An irony: If elected, Dallet would be the sixth woman on the seven-member Court.

*Who will the last-minute flurry of negative charges most help or hurt? Trying to help Screnock, the state Republican Party called Dallet a “liberal activist” last week and attacked her 2011 sentencing in an attempted child sexual assault case.

Burns and Dallet both attack Screnock for an incident decades ago in which he was cited for blocking access to a clinic that performed abortions.

Burns criticizes Dallet for supporting then-Justice Pat Roggensack, now the chief justice, when she was challenged by Ed Fallone, who “would have been the first Hispanic justice,” in 2013.

Returning fire, Dallet says Burns has no judicial experience, has practiced law “from a corporate boardroom – not a courtroom” and has “very little” experience with criminal cases.

Yes, these are three very different candidates.

Steven Walters is a senior producer for the nonprofit public affairs channel WisconsinEye. Contact him

11 thoughts on “The State of Politics: Supreme Court Primary Very Divisive”

  1. Jason says:

    “in the primary one week from tomorrow”
    – needs to be fixed, the primary is February 20th or two weeks from tomorrow.

  2. Dave Reid says:

    @Jason Thanks fixed.

  3. Troll says:

    Competing local paper. ” State Supreme Court candidate Rebecca Dallet in 2011 sentenced a man to two years in prison for attempted sexual assault of an 8-year-old girl, well short of the 20-year maximum she could have handed down”-

    Manna .from Heaven. Its like the attack commercials being played on Wheel of Fortune from the “dark money” need no effort to package messaging.

  4. When will we stop trying to demean judges over sentences without knowin g circumstances of the case. Troll sure just tried to do that in this case without knowing the circumstances:

  5. Jim Slocum says:

    Is it significant that Screnock never seems to find the time to participate in forums designed to acquaint voters with the positions of these candidates? I think so. The least this guy should do is mix it up with Dallet
    and Burns in these scheduled events. How can anyone vote for someone who is aftaid of exposing his views — and the sources of his financisl war chest — to voters?

  6. Troll says:

    Dominique, kinda like John Doe in Wisconsin and the Trump connection to Russia. The left lies and spins. Ms. Dallet welcome to politics. I hope they spend a million dollars on her soft on sexual predators stance.

  7. Terry says:

    @Dominique, exactly. Thank you for posting!

    @Troll, The right lies and spins a whole lot.more. Trump alone has racked up over 1,000 documented, outright lies in just one year as President! Here ya go!

    Try to think for yourself and not just regurgitate lies, spin and fake news. Being a sycophantic republican Trump Toady is not cool.

  8. Troll says:

    Terry the truth will set you free. We should do to Dailey what was. Done to Trump. Trump has the right to not show his taxes. The IRS illegally allows a third party to release them. We should tap Dallets workplace like Obamas justice department tapped Trumps work place over a flimsy Dossier bought by the Democratic Party and used in DID A warrant to bug the Republican nominee. Obama was a symbolic PRESIDENT and he weaponized his Cabinet to attack the political opposition.

  9. Troll, think you meantDallet not Dailey but when you sober up you may want to come down from seven falsehoods in one post! Because Trump invented a case of being tapped by Obama, hid his taxes when no other presidential figure in modern times has, etc.,you sound like a drunken Trump supporter in a bar raving everything the president has raved about, and actually I think some Trump supporters had better reasons than these lies and you shame them in the process. And I have just wasted too much ink.

  10. Troll says:

    Dominique, the only aspect I find silly with Trump the citizen was his demanding that Obama show Americans that he was born in the USA. No public servant or Federal Bureau happened to release his personal documents with out Obama’s consent. Liberals happen to live by different rules it seems very suspicious that the one IRS document year that happens to show Donald Trump lost one Billion dollars happens to fall into the NEW York Times hands. Your party has no decency.

  11. MKE Kid says:

    The current (Feb 8 – Feb 14) Shepherd Express has a pretty good article about the candidates. Screnock did not respond to their request for an interview. The Shepherd Express is available free online in addition to the hard copies at Pick N Saves. I’d provide a link, but am not sure if that would violate any copyright laws/agreements.

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