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MEMO: Gun Safety Helped Flip the Wisconsin Supreme Court Election


To: Interested Parties

From: Charlie Kelly, Senior Political Advisor, Everytown for Gun Safety

Date: April 5, 2023

Re: Gun Safety Helped Flip the Wisconsin Supreme Court Election

With the dangerous decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court, including last year’s Bruen decision which has invited a flood of new litigation from the gun lobby and its allies, state Supreme Courts have become an important line of defense for many gun safety laws. Following the wrongly-decided Bruen decision, Everytown responded by not only helping pass state laws that bolster protections against that wrongheaded decision, but also expanding our electoral efforts to ensure that state courts around the country are not stacked with gun rights extremists hostile to reasonable gun safety laws.  

Judge Janet Protasiewicz’s 11-point victory in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election last night was yet another proof-point for the power of gun safety as a winning issue. 

Given the high stakes for this race, Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund activated its grassroots networks to turn out the vote and ran a major independent expenditure paid media campaign to make sure voters knew the stakes as well. Last month, Everytown launched a $500,000 ad campaign to make sure that voters knew how their health and safety was on the line in this election. 

The campaign included television ads that ran in the Madison and Milwaukee media markets, highlighting Dan Kelly’s opposition to background checks on all gun sales and the fact that he wrote the court decision making it easier for dangerous people to carry guns in public. Additionally, the ads spotlighted the risk that on the court, Kelly could uphold Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban — with no exceptions for rape or incest. Our data showed that running this ad campaign in these two media markets in particular would help turn out targeted voters and also serve as an important persuasion vehicle for undecided and independent targets.

Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action volunteers also hit the phones to help turn out the vote for Judge Protasiewicz. Through Election Day, volunteers knocked on doors and made over 100,000 phone calls to key voters to get out the vote for Judge Protasiewicz.

This victory comes as a part of Everytown’s electoral strategy to make sure that common-sense constitutional gun laws are both upheld in the courts and then actually enforced. Last year, Everytown for Gun Safety and Everytown for Gun Safety Illinois made their first electoral investments in state Supreme Court races, spending $700,000 to successfully protect reasonable voices on the state Supreme Courts in both Michigan and Illinois. Further, the Everytown Victory Fund expanded its successful 2021 pilot program of investing in sheriff’s races to defeat candidates who refuse to enforce gun safety laws. A $500,000 sheriff engagement program in the 2022 midterms by the Victory Fund and Everytown Massachusetts IE PAC successfully elected John Allen as Bernalillo County Sheriff in New Mexico and ousted 25-year incumbent Bristol County Sheriff Tom Hodgson in Massachusetts. 

Everytown is committed to taking a comprehensive approach to ending gun violence at every level, and electoral victories like the one yesterday in Wisconsin are a key part of that work.