Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Wisconsin Supreme Court Candidates Debate

In advance of what is probably the most consequential election of 2023—despite the three gubernatorial races later this year—the two candidates for the Wisconsin Supreme Court election on April 4 squared off in their only and only debate. The candidates couldn't be further apart.

One of the biggest items in the debate was a law from 1849. To save you the trouble of firing up your calculator app, that's 174 years ago. The law bans abortions in Wisconsin. "Democratic" candidate Janet Protasiewicz believes the law violates the state Constitution. "Republican" candidate Daniel Kelly believes it does not violate the state Constitution. The other six justices are split 3-3, so the winner of this election gets to make the call.

The debate was bitter and testy. Not only was abortion front and center, but also redistricting and criminal sentencing. The candidates agreed on nothing and clearly deeply despise one another. Kelly accused Protasiewicz, a Milwaukee judge, of coddling criminals, an allegation she vigorously denied. She pointed out his endorsements from anti-abortion groups and said he is one of the most partisan people in the state. He used to be on the state Supreme Court but lost a retention election in 2020.

Other topics that came up were the use of drop boxes for collecting absentee ballots, the state's photo ID law, and collective bargaining.

Kelly also referred to his opponent by her first name, "Janet," rather than as the more respectful "Judge," something he might not have done if he were facing a man. Some female voters may have noticed.

Both candidates called the other a liar and they did not shake hands after the debate.

This is already the most expensive judicial race in U.S. history, with over $30 million spent so far. It is for the swing seat on the Supreme Court of a swing state. You expected something else, maybe? (V)

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