Thursday, April 03, 2008

Some lessons of the Butler - Gableman race

Why not? We're going to discuss this probably until next year's state Supreme Court race. In this week's column for the Waukesha Freeman, I take a look at some of the lessons learned from the Gableman victory. I'll give you the punchline:

If there are any lessons from the race for policy makers and campaign reformers, they should recognize that there is very little that could have been done about the tone of the campaign. Each of the current justices on the Supreme Court endorsed public financing of judicial campaigns, but giving the campaigns public money would not have changed how the campaigns were run. And if the justices will forgive me, it’s unsurprising that politicians would rather have someone else give them money than raise it themselves.

The Wisconsin State Journal has suggested doing away with Supreme Court elections and only having the governor appoint the justices. But there is wisdom in having a check on such an important branch of government. A sitting justice only has to face the voters every 10 years. As Jeff Mayers of pointed out on election night, a rough campaign is a small price to pay for picking someone for a 10-year term.

It’s worth noting, too, that Butler had faced the voters once before, and lost convincingly. He ended up on the Supreme Court because of an appointment by Gov. Jim Doyle to fill the remainder of Justice Diane Sykes’ term when she was appointed to the federal bench. Should the voters have been denied a chance to correct the error of the governor’s appointment?