Wisconsin Supreme Court Candidate Daniel Kelly Makes Statewide ‘Save the Court’ Tour in Closing Days of Campaign

As he lags in campaign donations and — sources say — in internal polls, conservative Supreme Court candidate Daniel Kelly is making a final campaign blitz before Tuesday’s crucial election.

Kelly’s four-day “Save the Court” statewide tour begins Friday in Watertown and wraps up Monday in Waukesha. In between, he’ll be making some two-dozen stops across the Badger State.

Kelly’s campaign says the former state Supreme Court justice’s closing argument is simple: “If you love the constitution and the rights and freedoms that it protects, then Justice Kelly is your candidate.” And the conservative will hammer on what he has said is his opponent’s push to “impose personal values on court deliberations and not the rule of law.”

“The Rule of Janet must not be allowed to overrule the Rule of Law,” the Kelly campaign said of liberal Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz.

The stakes couldn’t be higher.

Beyond the Ballot

Tuesday’s spring election will decide whether conservatives or liberals control the Badger State’s high court and, arguably, help determine the outcome of the 2024 presidential election. Protasiewicz has said she proudly wears the progressive label, and has made her pro-abortion stance clear as have the millions of dollars of support she’s received from the most aggressive pro-abortion organizations. She has said the maps that make up Wisconsin’s political boundaries are “rigged” in favor of Republicans, sending a pretty clear signal that she would vote in lockstep with the court’s three liberal justices on a more Democrat generous redistricting plan. Her vote could give Democrats the electoral advantage they’ve been craving and boost President Joe Biden’s chances in battleground state Wisconsin in 2024.

A Protasiewicz victory could also jeopardize a slew of popular conservative government reforms over the past decade-plus, not the least of which is former Republican Governor Scott Walker’s Act 10. The public sector union collective bargaining reform law has saved taxpayers billions of dollars since its enactment in 2011.

Protasiewicz has publicly declared she believes the landmark Act 10 is unconstitutional, differing with the five Wisconsin Supreme Court justices that upheld the law years ago. Not surprising. Protasiewicz, after all, protested against the bill at the Capitol and signed a petition to recall Walker. Asked by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel whether she would recuse herself if a case challenging Act 10 came before the court, the judge said, maybe.

“I’d have to think about it,” she said. “Given the fact that I marched, given the fact that I signed the recall petition, would I recuse myself? Maybe. Maybe. But I don’t know for sure.”

The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board this week asked, how can anyone believe Protasiewicz would be able to fairly judge a challenge to a law she has already reached a conclusion about?

“The fact that Judge Protasiewicz has any doubt at all about recusal on Act 10 shows she is unfit for the court. She’d bring clear and disqualifying political bias to the bench,” the board’s op-ed concludes.

“Judge Protasiewicz has made it clear from her public statements that she will make her decisions not on the basis of law, but on her own personal, partisan politics. What’s at stake on Tuesday is: will Wisconsin follow the rule of law? Or will it be guided by ‘woke’ politics in its highest court?” former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who serves as National Chairman of the Election Transparency Initiative, told The Wisconsin Daily Star.

Abortion, Abortion, Abortion

But for Democrats, in many ways, the pivotal election is about just one issue: abortion. Particularly, Wisconsin’s law banning it with very limited exceptions. The law, which was first enacted around the time of Wisconsin statehood, stood dormant for nearly 50 years before the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last June overturning Roe v. Wade. The case is sure to come before the state Supreme Court. The question is, will conservatives or liberals be in the majority when it does?

Protasiewicz has said she is “defending reproductive rights.”

“I can’t tell you how I’ll rule in any case, but (…) I value a woman’s freedom to make her own reproductive health care decisions,” she said following her win last month in the primary.

Kelly has said Protasiewicz’s statements telegraph how she will vote on the court. And that’s just fine with abortion-loving liberals.

“It’s going to be abortion morning, noon and night, even more than November was,”  Kelda Roys, a far left state senator from Madison, told the New York Times.

They believe it’s a winning issue, and the numbers suggest as much.

A new Marquette University Law School poll finds 67 percent of respondents oppose the U.S. Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling which overturned Roe v. Wade, while 33 percent are in favor.

Protasiewicz and her allies have hit Kelly hard and often on the support he’s received from pro-life groups.


Kelly has gone after the liberal Milwaukee County judge on her “soft-on-crime” record, pointing to several news stories in which Protasiewicz handed down lights sentences, including no jail time, for extremely violent crimes.

As the Washington Times reported:

Protasiewicz sentenced a man who broke his wife’s face in a brutal beatdown to just six months behind bars. Two years after the incident, Lazarick Spade went on a shooting spree outside his estranged wife’s home, nearly killing her.

Protasiewicz also went easy on a man who raped his cousin while she was unconscious.

On Monday, a new ad taking aim at Protasiewicz was launched.

In it, three Wisconsin sheriffs faulted the judge for failing to lock up criminals.

“Our officers risk their lives to protect your families, but law enforcement’s hands are tied when judges like Janet Protasiewicz refuse to hold dangerous criminals accountable,” Sheriffs Wes Revels, Eric Severson, and Dale Schmidt said in the ad, drawing attention to the case of Quantrell Bounds, a man who assaulted and raped a 13-year-old girl, recorded, and posted the incident online. Protasiewicz sentenced Bounds to five years and nine months behind bars but suspended the jail time and gave him probation.

Protasiewicz and her campaign have accused Kelly and his supporters of “cherry-picking” her record as a county judge.

Big Money 

In the final days of the bruising campaign, Protasiewicz appears to be in the catbird seat, at least as campaign money goes.

Protasiewicz has outraised Kelly nearly 6 to 1. Her campaign this week reported raking in $12.4 million for the six-week period ending March 20. Kelly took in $2.2 million over the same period, the vast majority from individual contributions. Protasiewicz’s campaign, meanwhile, received $8.8 million from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. She claims she would recuse herself from any case involving the state party. Kelly accuses Protasiewicz of being bought and paid for by state Democrats.

The Wisconsin Democratic Party’s cash bank for Protasiewicz has benefitted from far left big guns, including $1 million from the left’s biggest Sugar Daddy, billionaire George Soros, Fox News reports. Liberal Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker chipped in another $1 million on March 14, and Tulsa philanthropists Stacy and Lynn Schusterman made four donations in March totaling $1 million, after previously donating $40,000 to the party, Breitbart reported.

Outside groups have spent more than $22 million on the Supreme Court election as of the last reports, with the spending edge going to backers of Kelly, according the left-leaning Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.

Spending on the nationally watched race has topped $45 million, three times the previous highest-priced judicial race in U.S. history, according to Wispolitics.com

Sources tell The Daily Star that Protasiewicz appears to be leading in internal polls, but the numbers are within the margin of error.

Protasiewicz may spend the final days of the race resting. As Wispolitics.com reported Thursday, the candidate stepped away from an event hosted by the NAACP after the third audience question, claiming she was ill. She said she planned to take a COVID-19 test and rest. Protasiewicz signed off while answering the third question and handing the responsibility to campaign senior adviser Sachin Chheda and State Senator LaTonya Johnson, D-Milwaukee, Wispolitics reported.

The test was negative, Protasiewicz tweeted.

Kelly isn’t slowing down. He plans to hit two-dozen cities as he blankets the state for his four-day ‘Save the Court’ tour.

The conservative has the endorsements of a long list of law enforcement officials. Three of the four conservative state Supreme Court justices, including Justice Pat Roggensack, the retiring justice Kelly or Protasiewicz would replace, also have come out in support their former colleague on the bench. Protasiewicz is endorsed by powerful liberal politicians and interests.

Like always, turnout will tell the tale in Tuesday’s critical Supreme Court election, particularly whether conservative voters heeded the call to do what they typically don’t do en masse: Vote early.

“Everything from gun rights, fair elections, and abortion to property tax increases and the return of the union machine is on the ballot,” Cuccinelli said.

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M.D. Kittle is the National Political Editor for The Star News Network.
Photo “Justice Daniel Kelly” and Background Photo “Justice Daniel Kelly Speaking at Event” by Justice Daniel Kelly. 



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