Politics

Liberal Judge Susan Crawford enters race for Wisconsin Supreme Court with majority at stake

MADISON, Wis. — (AP) — A liberal judge who previously represented Planned Parenthood in a case related to abortion access entered the race for Wisconsin Supreme Court on Monday, with majority control of the battleground state's highest court on the line.

Dane County Circuit Judge Susan Crawford launched her campaign to succeed retiring liberal Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, citing her previous work for Planned Parenthood as the fight over a Wisconsin abortion ban is playing out in court.

Crawford joins conservative Waukesha County Circuit Judge Brad Schimel, a former Republican state attorney general who opposes abortion, as the only announced candidates. If more than two candidates get in the race, a Feb. 18 primary will take place. The winner in the April 1 election will be elected to a 10-year term.

Crawford, in a statement, framed the race as a battle for ideological control of the court.

“For the first time in years, we have a majority on the court focused on getting the facts right, following the law, and protecting our constitutional rights,” Crawford said. "We can’t risk having that progress reversed.”

Crawford vowed “to protect the basic rights and freedoms of Wisconsinites under our constitution,” which she said were threatened ”by an all-out effort to politicize the court to drive a right-wing agenda.”

Crawford also pitched herself as tough-on-crime, highlighting her past work as an assistant attorney general. Past liberal candidates who have won election to the court have made similar arguments.

“I know we need Supreme Court justices who understand what it takes to keep communities safe, who are impartial and fair, who will use common sense, and who won’t politicize the constitution to undermine our most basic rights,” Crawford said.

Crawford's campaign announcement also took a swipe at Schimel, labeling him a "right-wing extremist" because of his support for enforcing Wisconsin's 1849 abortion ban. That ban is on hold while two challenges to the 175-year-old state law are pending before the state Supreme Court.

Schimel accused Crawford of being “handpicked by the leftist majority on the Supreme Court to cement their stranglehold for another three years.”

“I’ve spent my career defending and upholding Wisconsin law and she’s spent much of hers suing the State of Wisconsin,” Schimel said in a statement. "While I was a frontline prosecutor in the courtroom defending crime victims and putting criminals behind bars, she was working for radical left-wing special interests groups that don’t share our values.”

The April 1 election will determine who replaces Bradley, who is part of the 4-3 liberal majority and the longest-serving justice on the court. The election will also determine whether liberals will maintain majority control until at least 2028, the next time a liberal justice is up for election.

Crawford was elected as a judge in 2018 and won reelection to a second term in April. She started her career as a prosecutor for the state attorney general's office and worked as chief legal counsel to former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. As a private practice attorney, she fought Republican laws that limited access to abortion, effectively ended collective bargaining for public workers and required photo ID to vote.

Liberals took majority control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court in August 2023 thanks to Janet Protasiewicz's victory, flipping the court after 15 years of conservative control.

The court has made several key rulings since, including a December decision overturning Republican-drawn maps of the state's legislative districts. Abortion was also a key issue in Protasiewicz's race.

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