The Wisconsin Supreme Court election is technically nonpartisan. But that hasn’t stopped Democrats from championing Janet Protasiewicz, and Republicans from endorsing Daniel Kelly. Both candidates have accused each other of bias, and both say the court should have a recusal law.
Campaign spending on this election has broken records for highest ever spending on any state supreme court race, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Both candidates have spent millions of dollars attacking each other in political ads.
They continued to attack each other during the one and only debate between Protasiewicz and Kelly, hosted by WisPolitics, the Wisconsin State Bar, and Channel 3000. .
A major topic on the minds of voters right now is abortion, and it was a major topic in the debate. Protasiewicz clearly stated her views.
“My personal opinion is that should be the women’s right to make the reproductive health decision. Period.”
She pointed out that Kelly is endorsed by leading anti-abortion groups, including Wisconsin Right to Life, Wisconsin Family Action, and Pro-Life Wisconsin.
But Kelly denies having any stance on abortion.
“I had no conversations with those organizations about how I would rule on any issue, including the abortion issue.”
Protasiewicz said she is 100% sure that Kelly would support the 1849 abortion ban in Wisconsin if he is elected.
Both candidates support the idea of a recusal law. That would prevent justices from hearing cases where they might have a bias.
Kelly accused Protasiewicz of bias towards the Democrats because of their endorsement of her. But Protasiewicz promised to recuse herself of any cases dealing with someone who contributed to her campaign.
She added that Kelly was on the Republican payroll until December 2022. Kelly promptly denied this, saying they were just a client. He then said that Protasiewicz was a liar, which he said repeatedly throughout the debate.
“Yup that’s absolutely not true, once again. So this seems to be a pattern for you Janet, just telling lies about me.”
Another key issue on the table was redistricting. Democrats have touted a plan to bring new maps to the state’s high court should liberals gain a majority with a Protasiewicz win.
She took a strong stance on the issue, saying it’s obvious that Wisconsin maps are unfair.
“You look at Congress, you know we have eight seats– six are red, two are blue– in a battleground state. So we know something’s wrong. We know that this least change rule certainly inhibits people’s ability to cast a vote, and a vote that counts.”
Kelly, again, would not give a stance on the issue. He said that maps are the job of the legislature and not the courts.
Technically it is the job of the legislature to draw district maps. But maps have gone to the Supreme Court in the past two cycles. In 2011, the Wisconsin Supreme court upheld maps that favored Republicans, according to the New York Times.
And in 2022, the maps again went to the Wisconsin Supreme court to settle a debate between Governor Evers and the Republican-led legislature. After the case went to the U.S. Supreme court, the Wisconsin Supreme court rejected Evers change to the gerrymandered maps, according to Channel 3000.
Today marked the first and last debate between the two candidates before the election in exactly two weeks, on April 4. The winner of this spring’s election will determine the ideological majority of the court.
Meanwhile, the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign reported yesterday that candidate and group spending is at over $20.2 million for this election. This is a record for money spent on any state or national judicial race.
Meanwhile, early in-person voting opened today, and will close on April 2nd.
Reporting for W-O-R-T News, I’m Abigail Leavins.
Photo courtesy of Royal Broil on WORT Flickr