On April 5 Wisconsinites will be voting for assorted alderpersons, trustees and school board candidates. The marquee event however, is the hotly contested Unions vs. Gov. Scott Walker race.
Oh sure, the ballot will say something about JoAnne Kloppenburg vs. David Prosser for Wisconsin Supreme Court justice, but they're just bit players in the unions' big play to get revenge on Walker for his budget repair bill. Unions are casting Justice Prosser as a Walker clone and urging Walker haters to use the high court race to punish Prosser/Walker by voting for his opponent, whoever she is.
Prosser, who has been a Supreme Court justice for 12 years, finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, being a conservative judge who happens to be up for re-election this year. He says he views the union action as "a little bit like a drive-by shooting."
It's a lot like that. The American Federation of Teachers, Local 212, sent a letter to its members saying legal challenges to Walker's budget repair bill could wind up before the state Supreme Court. It claimed four judges are "anti-union" and said, "A Kloppenburg victory would swing the balance to our side. A vote for Prosser is a vote for Walker. It's time to get even."
Get even. That's union mentality for you. They're furious because their protests, threats and boycotts didn't scare Republican legislators into changing course. Their predictions that Walker would enslave all workers in flaming Triangle Shirtwaist factories owned by David and Charles Koch didn't come true. Democracy inconveniently prevailed despite their Democratic senators' best efforts to obstruct it.
So it's time to get even. If they can't subvert the legislative process, they'll try to subvert the judicial process by getting Walker opponents to vote pro-union judges onto the court.
That's the plan with Kloppenburg. She is promising to be an impartial judge, of course. But since she's never been a judge before, there are no Kloppenburg rulings out there to prove whether she's impartial or not.
Prosser's rulings, though, are a matter of public record. We see that he often concurs with the other conservative judges, but he's not an ideologue. The Wisconsin Law Journal reported in August that Prosser also concurred with the liberal justices more than half the time.
As for Kloppenburg, we know she's an assistant attorney general most experienced in environmental law. She interned for Chief Justice Abrahamson and clerked for former Chief Judge Barbara Crabb - the judge who ruled against the National Day of Prayer last year.
She makes campaign contributions only to Democrats, and has been endorsed by the big labor and teachers unions. The executive director of NARAL Pro Choice Wisconsin endorses her, as well as numerous liberal environmental activist groups.
The liberals see something in Kloppenburg they like.
It can't be her judicial experience. No, they just need a "Get Even With Walker" candidate, and she'll do. Revenge voters only care about who they're voting against, not who they're voting for.
This is terribly shortsighted. To allow the office of Supreme Court justice to be reduced to nothing more than a referendum on a governor degrades the office. Whoever wins this race will be making important decisions for the whole state for the next 10 years, at least.
Let's do ourselves a favor and vote for the candidate who is the most qualified for the job - as we did in the Feb. 15 primary. With four candidates on the ballot, Prosser won 55 percent of the vote. Kloppenburg only got 25 percent. If she wins next week, we all know it won't be because of her merits, but because she coasted in on a wave of anti-Walker spitefulness.
The unions are shamelessly announcing that by carrying Kloppenburg into the Supreme Court, it will swing to their side. At the very least, a Kloppenburg win would erode public trust in the court's ability to rule impartially on union-related cases.
The last thing Wisconsin needs is a high court that's inclined toward any special interest group, left or right.
Prosser is a fine Supreme Court justice who doesn't deserve to lose his job just because the unions decided to use him as a pawn in their war on Walker. Fair-minded Wisconsinites should return him to the bench.