Conservative Supreme Court candidate Daniel Kelly accused liberal rival Janet Protasiewicz of slandering him in her campaign ads, calling her accusations preposterous and stupid.
He also called the Milwaukee County judge unqualified to serve on the state’s highest court.
Kelly opened his appearance Tuesday in Milwaukee with an extended riff on Protasiewicz, the sentences she handed down while serving on the circuit court bench and an ad knocking him for representing accused child molesters.
In the Protasiewicz spot, the narrator says Kelly as an attorney defended child sex predators who posed as ministers to prey on vulnerable young girls by luring them to locations they believed to be safe. The narrator adds, “And Dan Kelly defended those monsters. Do you want someone like that on the Supreme Court?”
Kelly said the ad falsely suggested he represented the defendants through trial. Online court records show Kelly became an attorney in the four cases cited in the ad between early February 1998 and early March of that year. He withdrew as an attorney on Aug. 26, 1998, and the case went to trial that December.
He claimed the ad was slanderous because it suggested he liked the kind of crime his clients were accused of committing, adding it was “a truly stupid thing to say.”
“There is no intelligence behind it, there is no reasoning and there are no facts, and yet she says it anyway,” Kelly said, adding the spot slanders all attorneys who have handled a defense issue.
Protasiewicz spokesperson Sam Roecker fired back that Kelly’s “entire record is a sham,” dismissing him as an “extreme, right-wing politician who is desperate to hide his record of corruption on the bench and taking radical positions on abortion, Social Security, and more.”
“As a veteran prosecutor who has dedicated her career to protecting the rights of victims, Judge Protasiewicz has earned the reputation for being fair and impartial,” Roecker said. “She is running for Supreme Court because extreme political positions and self-interest should never be put above the law and the constitutional rights of Wisconsinites.”
Protasiewicz declined an offer to appear at the event, which was co-sponsored by the Milwaukee Press Club, WisPolitics.com and the Rotary Club of Milwaukee. Along with his opening remarks, Kelly took questions from a panel of journalists.
During his appearance, Kelly took aim at Protasiewicz over sentences she’s handed down while on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court. That includes several that have been in ads his supporters have run knocking Protasiewicz.
Kelly called Protasiewicz’s sentences problematic, including one in which a man raped his sleeping cousin. Kelly said his opponent at sentencing said she saw in him a good man and that he wasn’t a threat to the public.
“I think there is something seriously wrong in her judgment,” he said.
WisPolitics.com has tallied $27 million in spending in the race overall, nearly doubling the previous national record of $15 million for a single state Supreme Court seat. Meanwhile, Kelly has yet to air a radio or TV ad in the campaign.
He said his fundraising has “been very satisfying, but it’s taken a little while to get the funds to” go up on the air and plans to do so soon.
At the end of the pre-primary period that ended Feb. 6, the last report filed, Kelly had $376,723 in the bank.
Protasiewicz on her own has now spent more than $8.5 million on paid media.
Watch WisconsinEye video of the event here.