Will a tight mayoral election between Paul Soglin and Dave Cieslewicz help JoAnne Kloppenburg in her bid to unseat David Prosser on the Wisconsin Supreme Court? The theory is that a mayoral election in Madison increases turnout in a precinct likely to be very Kloppenburg-friendly.
But I don’t think the effect will be so big. Supreme Court races here have tended to draw about 800,000 voters. (Compare with the 2.1 million who voted in the 2010 governor’s race.) There have been three State Supreme Court elections in the last five years. The election that included a Madison mayoral race drew 90,000 voters from Dane County; the one that featured a County Executive contest got 100,000. The other, the high-profile race between Louis Butler and Michael Gableman, got 70,000 Dane County votes. In each of these, Dane County gave a large majority of its votes to the more liberal candidate.
So let’s say the Soglin-Cieslewicz race brings out an extra 30K Madison voters on April 5. Based on previous Supreme Court votes, give 75% of these to Kloppenburg. That gives her an extra margin of 15,000 votes, or about 2%. Not that big a swing, when you’re trying to unseat an incumbent justice, something that’s only been done once in the last forty years.
That one time, by the way, was Gableman’s victory over Butler. Gableman won by 23,000 votes. If Madison had elected a mayor on 2008, it’s just possible Butler would still be on the Court.
While we’re talking about the spring election — people in comments, especially old Madison hands, should feel free to lobby for a mayoral candidate. I’m undecided. Here’s Cieslewicz’s blog and here’s Soglin’s.
And, of course, if you live in Wisconsin, don’t forget to vote on April 5.