A conservative judge’s campaign for reelection to the Wisconsin Supreme Court has become the next front in a growing multistate Republican effort to limit the power of organized labor.
The once-obscure judicial race, which will be decided in an election Tuesday, has taken on national implications, both because Gov. Scott Walker’s signature legislation stripping public unions’ bargaining powers could be decided by the court and because it’s the first time voters have gone to the polls since Walker signed the bill that sparked the national push.
The contest between incumbent David Prosser and liberal challenger JoAnne Kloppenburg has attracted an infusion of outside spending that could total as much as $5 million. Much of it has been expended on increasingly ugly ads funded by independent groups that either have a stake in the Wisconsin union fight or see the outcome of the court race as a potentially symbolic pivot point on an issue with major implications for the 2012 election.
Dozens of groups have become involved in the race — some with major union backing, one with deep-pocketed backing from Wisconsin businesses and other online liberal activists, anti-abortion organizations and tea party forces, such as the Tea Party Express and American Majority.
And, in perhaps the ultimate indication that the race has become a national lightning rod, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin weighed in Friday, endorsing Prosser.
Outside groups have framed the Prosser-Kloppenburg tilt as a partisan battle for control of the court with the fate of Walker’s collective bargaining reforms hanging in the balance.