Wisconsin Supreme Court election revives political discussion on campus

Rebecca Carvalho

Tuesday, April 5, Justice David Prosser Jr. was in the lead to be reelected for another 10-year term as the Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice. Prosser faced JoAnne Kloppenburg, Wisconsin Assistant Attorney General, in an election race that was not initially expected to be competitive.

However, after Gov. Scott Walker’s budget repair bill and the series of protests in Madison, this election turned out to be regarded as a second opportunity for voters to express their opinions on the issue.

The election had a high voter turnout, estimated at around 33 percent, compared to a turnout of around 20 percent in previous years. At the time of publication, Kloppenburg led Prosser by 204 votes. However, a recount is expected.

Last month the Wisconsin Senate passed Walker’s budget repair bill. This bill, however, is not yet considered a law because it is still on hold for legal matters and will go through the courts. While the State Supreme Court Justice race is non-partisan, Prosser’s conservative past and Kloppenburg’s liberal inclinations drove voters to believe that, reaching the State Supreme Court, the future of Walker’s bill will be defined.

Seniors Cecily McMillan and Fanny Briceño, students who are engaged in Wisconsin politics, spoke in retrospect about the Wisconsin protests, presenting their views on the Supreme Court elections and motivating the Lawrence community to take action in the political arena.

Briceño, president of LU College Republicans and Viking Conservatives, expressed a belief that the election erroneously felt like a referendum on Walker. “Supreme Court elections are supposed to be non-partisan and I stand very firmly with that statement,” said Briceño.

Despite disagreeing in politics, both Briceño and McMillan expressed a belief that the Lawrence community should become more politically engaged. A few months ago, McMillan helped to organize a trip to Madison so Lawrentians could join the protests.

McMillan said, “There were a lot of students, faculty, staff, who got involved during the initial protests in Madison. It was a really amazing and reaffirming experience.” However, she also pointed out that she heard sentiments from many Lawrence students expressing an “it doesn’t involve me” mindset.

“Gay marriage, higher education funding, abortion, collective bargaining, education budgets, taxes, war, affirmative action, environmental law, foreign imports / exports, healthcare, welfare, birth control, sex education… I would argue… that these things do affect us all and it is important to take a stance,” said McMillan. “You may not think it directly affects you,” she added, “but think about the interconnectedness of our society”.

Briceño expressed that there is a difference between being interested in politics and being actively involved in politics. She helped with Scott Walker’s campaign, attended many of his events, did phone banks for him and donated money.

Said Briceño, “I take pride in helping with campaigns for congressmen, senators, governors. Lawrence is lacking in being active for sure. There are around 30 students who identify or identified at some point as ‘Conservative’ or ‘Republican’, however, there are only about 3 students who are active in and off campus.”

She continued, “The policy making, the voting, the enactment of laws, the entire process is fascinating and lacking in other countries.” She added that she believes voting is a way that would allow young people to become more politically engaged. Briceño also advocated for LU College Republicans and pointed out that she believes their role is to provide “the other side of things” on campus.

“When the Walker Bill was introduced and the media jumped at it, all my friends asked me to explain the Conservative side of it,” said Briceño. “They were angered that the media did not focus on any of the benefits this law would produce. Like saving our budget.”

Last year, Dave Broker — the former president of LU College Democrats — and Briceño held a radio show on campus entitled “The Ongoing Debate” where they discussed and represented opposite sides of issues every week.

McMillan, although she recognized that LU Democrats and LU Republicans organize events, believes that these student organizations should be doing more to get people politically involved. Her worries, however, go beyond political participation. McMillan is more interested in finding a way that would allow more students to question themselves, to question what they believe in and then be able to take action to defend that idea.