Thursday, April 03, 2008

First Look at the Butler-Gableman Supreme Court Race Results

Needless to say, I was quite disappointed with the outcome of the Supreme Court race between Louis Butler and Michael Gableman. Gableman, who is ethically challenged and at best marginally competent, won by 2.5%.

As usual the results were probably determined by money. Based on the numbers collected by Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, it looks like total spending on Gablemen's behalf was about 50% higher than that for Butler, roughly $1.95 million to $1.25 million, with almost 90% of the spending coming from outside groups running so-called "issue" ads in order to avoid regulations and disclosure requirements.

Below is a map showing the county by county results with an overlay showing Wisconsin media markets. As best I can tell every market was saturated with TV ads except (as usual) area #4, the Minneapolis/St. Paul market. While I was expecting to see Butler perform better in this part of the state due to the absence of attack ads against him, Gableman is from Burnett County, and this gave him an obvious boost in Burnett and probably the surrounding counties.

If I have time I'm going to do another version of the map normalized to the results of the '04 presidential election. This would remove most of the ideological variation between the counties and therefore highlight other effects, which might be rather interesting...

The media markets are:
1. Duluth/Superior
2. Wausau/Rhinelander
3. Green Bay/Appleton
4. Minneapolis/St. Paul
5. La Crosse/Eau Claire
6. Madison
7. Milwaukee


Alan Jay Weisbard said...

Thank you for this. I will look forward to the comparative map vs. 2004 Presidential--both races were close, tipping in opposite directions, so comparison will be interesting.

If you have a way to display the impact of differential turnout on judicial elections, that will be especially interesting.

Thanks again, Alan J. Weisbard

clyde winter said...

Judge Gableman was appointed by Scott McCallum as Burnett County Circuit Court Judge right after Gableman hosted and organized a fundraiser, and made a substantial personal contribution, for Republican Governor McCallum's election campaign. Gableman used a government supplied office phone and facilities in this partisan campaign effort. McCallum appointed Gableman despite the merit selection panel recommending two other qualified persons for that office, and despite Gableman's application after the deadline, and despite the fact that Gableman had never lived in Burnett County.

Justice Butler was appointed by Jim Doyle to the Supreme Court after he was named the top candidate by the non-partisan merit selection process.

Louis Butler has been an excellent judge longer than Michael Gableman has been a mediocre lawyer.

Judge Gableman's campaign "benefitted" from the sleazy,misleading, distracting phony issue ads run by three secretive front groups, with much funding coming from not-revealed out of state connections. But that wasn't enough. Gableman himself ran disgusting ads promulgating lies and misinformation that discredited the judiciary, the legal profession, and the citizens of Wisconsin.

The Butler campaign itself ran no sleazy, misleading ads. And even the phony issue ads run by two unaffiliated but Butler-supporting groups, which might be characterized as sleazy, did not employ lies or intentionally misinform voters. The campaigns were not equivalent, or even on a par in terms of integrity.

Burnett County (where Gableman was a Circuit Court judge) has a population about 16,000. In the April Fools Day election, about 2400 people voted there. (That's fifteen percent of the population.) Burnett County voters favored Gableman by a higher percentage than any other county in the state. But other than the handful of people in Burnett County, the three Wisconsin counties that turned the coldest of shoulders to Justice Butler were Washington, Ozaukee, and Waukesha, contiguous suburban counties surrounding Milwaukee. Those three counties rejected Justice Butler by a vote of 2 to 1. That is about the same percentage that those three counties rejected Senator Feingold, and that is the same percentage by which those three counties twice approved the Administration of George W. Bush. The margin of votes that Waukesha County, alone, bestowed upon the dull, mediocre party hack Judge Gableman, was enough to hand the Wisconsin Supreme Court seat to him.

Not many voters know that the extremely intelligent, thoughtfully moderate, Justice Butler comes from a law enforcement family. Indeed, a very close relative of Justice Butler was a police officer who had been killed in the line of duty, Justice Butler was the first African-American ever to hold office in Wisconsin as a Supreme Court Justice. He voted with the majority on the Court 85 percent of the time (which is the second highest percentage among the seven sitting Justices) , and Justice Butler voted to uphold criminal convictions in 97 percent of the cases considered by the Supreme Court.

When third-stringer Gableman takes office, it will be the first time ever that not one Justice of the Supreme Court will have professional/judicial experience rooted in Milwaukee (which is Wisconsin's largest city, with one-sixth of the population of the entire state).

When Justice Butler lost this election, by about 20,000 votes, Wisconsin lost the opportunity to thank him appropriately for his careful, reflective, impartial, independent work on behalf of the people of the state. When the electorate succumbed to the multi-million dollar attack of the sleazy, misleading, lying, phony issue ads, funded in secret from unknown corporate sources, Wisconsin lost the opportunity to have the proud honor of electing a Supreme Court Justice who would have been not only the first African-American ever elected by the people to that office here, but also one of the most qualified, most deserving, most intelligent and thoughtful Justices, Wisconsin has ever had.

Anonymous said...

It seems your message is one of money. In Madison, all I saw were liberal third party ads. In the end it was these ads that kept me from the polls.

I think message more than money is the reason Butler failed. Yes, Gableman was running tough on crime ads, but so were the liberal groups. it does not take a brain scientist to figure out what voters that drives to the polls.

In reality Butler was not only fighting the Gableman machine, but also the liberal groups. If for example those liberal groups put out the ads on Butler's site, there is no doubt in my mind he would of won.

No matter what the WMC cronies might want to conjure up, the northern counties did not go for Gableman because of his "conservative judicial" philosophy. They also were not motivated by those few cases in which the Supreme Court held corporations responsible for their actions.

I suspect its the unspoken that determined this election. Gableman won because he is a conservative activist judge. If we interviewed folks I bet its comes down to issues of abortion, gay marriage etc.