Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Ann Walsh Bradley announced Thursday she would step down at the end of her term next spring, putting liberals’ majority on the pivotal swing state’s highest bench at stake.

The April 2025 election to replace Bradley promises to be an expensive and bitter race and will likely feature many of the same momentous issues — like abortion rights and redistricting — that defined a 2023 Wisconsin Supreme Court race that ultimately gave liberals their first majority on the bench in 15 years.

In a statement, Bradley, 73, said she would not run for a fourth 10-year term on the court, saying it was a good time to bring “fresh perspectives to the court.”

“My decision has not come lightly. It is made after careful consideration and reflection. I know I can do the job and do it well. I know I can win re-election should I run, but it’s just time to pass the torch,” wrote Bradley, who was elected to the technically nonpartisan court in 1995.

The election for Bradley’s seat will come two years after liberal Janet Protasiewicz defeated conservative Dan Kelly in what was the most expensive state Supreme Court race in U.S. history and one of the most closely watched elections of 2023.

The race was largely defined by Protasiewicz’s support for abortion rights and opposition to the state’s heavily gerrymandered legislative maps — two issues that were set to come before the court. During the campaign, conservatives criticized Protasiewicz for having taken public stances on divisive political issues. Following her win, some Republicans in the state threatened her with impeachment.

Just days after Protasiewicz was sworn in, the court took up the case of the state’s legislative maps and months later ruled them unconstitutional. The new maps that were drawn are all but certain to cut down on the GOP’s majority in the Legislature this November.

Wisconsin Democrats promptly praised Bradley on Thursday for her tenure, but also warned of how much was at stake if conservatives were to retake the majority — especially on the issue of abortion in the state, where, following the fall of Roe v. Wade in 2022, a 175-year-old near-total ban technically went back into effect.

“There’s no question that reproductive freedom and abortion bans in Wisconsin will be a central issue not just this fall, but also in the Supreme Court race next spring,” Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Ben Wikler said on a call with reporters. “The far right is trying to take over the Supreme Court so that they can put the 1849 abortion ban into effect.”

“Justice Ann Walsh Bradley’s announcement this morning that she won’t be running for re-election next year is a reminder that Wisconsin is still only one bad election away from an ultra-right wing, abortion banning Supreme Court majority,” he added.

The race will have huge political ramifications in the battleground state.

Democrats in the state had viewed the new court majority as a prime opportunity to break the GOP’s yearslong grip on power and policy. But another election with the majority again at stake could scramble those hopes.

It’s also likely to further ratchet up existing tensions on the court.

While the Wisconsin Supreme Court has been plagued by acrimony, divisions and allegations of partisanship for years, the 2023 election — and the flip in ideological balance on the bench following it — caused those tensions to erupt anew into public view.

Protasiewicz’s first few weeks on the court were marred by sudden personnel moves overseen by the court’s new liberal majority, rancorous news releases and tweets by justices that included insults and accusations of partisanship.

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