Ideological, Not Partisan
The next high profile electoral battle (for a technically nonpartisan office) will take place in two months for Wisconsin’s open Supreme Court seat. Over the last 100 years, Wisconsin has held 77 elections to its Supreme Court. Just 16 of these were open seat contests – in 1925, 1949, 1956, 1961, 1963, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1995, 1996, 2003, 2007, 2018, and 2019. The average victory margin was 20.0 points in these open seat races versus 46.8 points for those involving incumbents (of whom, just five of 61 were defeated during the last 100 years). When looking at contested races only, however, that gap disappears almost entirely: the 15 contested open seat races since 1923 had an average margin of victory of 14.8 points while the 39 contested races with an incumbent were decided by an average of 16.9 points. Just one of the last 11 elections for the office since 2007 has been uncontested.
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