Wisconsin Judicial Race Is Test for GOP

Officially, an election for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court today (April 5) is a nonpartisan race between Justice David Prosser, who holds the job now, and JoAnne Kloppenburg, an assistant state attorney general who wants to unseat him.

Unofficially, the election is a referendum on Republicans who took over both houses of the Legislature and the governor's office last November and have since pushed through a controversial agenda, led by sharp restrictions on collective bargaining rights for public employee unions.

Prosser is seen as a member of the court's 4-to-3 conservative majority, leading critics to portray him as an ally of Governor Scott Walker and GOP legislators. Kloppenburg is being portrayed as a union supporter who could shift the court in a more liberal direction just as it considers the legal questions surrounding the collective bargaining law.

At the center of the debate is Walker, who, along with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Ohio Governor John Kasich, has become a leading voice against unions and a divisive political figure.

"This has really become a proxy battle for the governor's positions and much less a fight about the court itself," Charles Franklin, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, tells The New York Times .

The paper notes that the judicial race has attracted national attention - including from Sarah Palin - and will likely end up costing millions of dollars as outside groups pour money in to support their preferred candidate. 

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