The winner of the high-stakes contest between Republican-backed Dan Kelly and Democratic-supported Janet Protasiewicz will determine majority control of the court headed into the 2024 presidential election. The court came within one vote of overturning President Joe Biden’s narrow win in 2020, and both sides expect another close race in 2024.
It’s the latest election where abortion rights has been the central issue since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last June. It’s also an example of how officially nonpartisan court races have grown into political battles as major legal fights play out at the state level.
All of it has fueled spending that will double, and likely triple or more, the previous high of $15.4 million spent on a state court race in Illinois in 2004. Democrats have spent heavily for Protasiewicz and Republicans for Kelly.
Democrats are trying to flip control of the court, which has had a majority of conservative justices the past 15 years. That has allowed the court to uphold an array of Republican priorities, including banning absentee ballot drop boxes last year and affirming the 2011 law all-but ending collective bargaining for most public workers.