Bruce Murphy

Geenen Upsets Brash in Appeals Court Race

Incumbent William Brash loses in a landslide to challenger Sara Geenen.

By - Apr 5th, 2023 09:54 am
Sara Geenen. Photo courtesy of Sara Geenen for Milwaukee.

Sara Geenen. Photo courtesy of Sara Geenen for Milwaukee.

It is rare for incumbent judges in metro Milwaukee to get challenged, much less lose the race by a landslide.

But incumbent District 1 Court of Appeals Judge William Brash was overwhelmed by labor lawyer Sara Geenen in yesterday’s election.

Geenen won with 90,716 or 65.9% of the vote, to 46,123 or 33.5% for Brash.

The state Appeals Court is one of four in Wisconsin, and includes all of Milwaukee County. Brash was appointed to the position in 2015 and won election to the seat in 2017 and served a single term that included serving as chief judge since 2021.

Brash ran the traditional campaign for an incumbent judge, avoiding any discussion of cases or issues, but declaring “his passion for law, order and justice,” and trumpeting his 35 years of experience on the bench. As his campaign website noted, that experience began with 12 years as Fox Point municipal judge and “Then moving on to be a Circuit Court Judge in Milwaukee County and then as an Appellate Judge since 2015. He was named the Presiding Judge for District 1 in 2019, and has been the Chief Judge for the Court of Appeals since 2021.”

Against that background Geenen offered her 16 years of experience as a labor and employment attorney. She touted her work “to help regular people…vindicate their rights” and “make their workplaces better to protect their rights at work,” and noted that she had “practiced in dozens of courts across the country, administrative bodies, both the state and federal, various administrative agencies.”

But the race became more about partisanship than experience. Geenen did a good job tying Brash to Republicans, noting that he was first appointed to his job by Republican Gov. Scott Walker and that Brash, in his application for the job, cited the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling upholding Act 10 as “one of the best United States or Wisconsin Supreme Court opinions in the last thirty years.”

And the Brash campaign helped her reinforce this theme by sending an email to supporters casting the race as a pivotal contest between liberals and conservatives in Milwaukee.

“Bill is a conservative who will follow the law as it is written and will not legislate from the bench,” he wrote. “We need to keep judicial conservatives like Judge Bill Brash, in these all important Court of Appeals seats.”

The email also said Brash’s campaign is about making sure Dan Kelly gets elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. “By creating a strong grass-roots campaign, we will not only re-elect Bill Brash, but we will also turnout the conservative vote, thereby keeping the Supreme Court in conservative hands.”

In heavily Democratic Milwaukee County, where Kelly was crushed by liberal Janet Protasiewicz, it was a huge mistake for Brash to tie his campaign to Kelly.

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Categories: Politics

2 thoughts on “Geenen Upsets Brash in Appeals Court Race”

  1. DanRyan86 says:

    Has the GOP fever dream in WI finally broken?

  2. Thomas Sepllman says:

    Not until there are more Dems in the Assemble and the Senate Do not even have to be the the majority but that would be nice. With the Governor and the Supreme Court there are checks and balances.

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