Supreme Court candidates Daniel Kelly and Janet Protasiewicz have committed to a March 21 debate hosted by the State Bar of Wisconsin, WISC-TV and WisPolitics.com.
Protasiewicz also said Monday she committed to a second forum. But that wasn’t among the dozen other debates that Kelly has agreed to, and his campaign accused Protasiewicz of ducking the public. The March 21 debate will be their only televised forum ahead of the April 4 election, which will decide the ideological balance of the court.
The debate also will occur as local clerks are allowed to begin offering early voting.
“It is outrageous that Politician Protasiewicz has promised to put her thumb on the scales of justice and rule based on her ‘values’ instead of the law, but now won’t even explain her soft-on-crime record and ties to extremist activists,” said Ben Voelkel, a senior adviser to Kelly’s campaign.
In the 2018 race for an open seat, Rebecca Dallet and Michael Screnock met in three debates post-primary. In another race for an open seat in 2019, Brian Hagedorn and Lisa Neubauer met twice.
And in 2020, Kelly debated challenger Jill Karofsky once post-primary. But that debate schedule was impacted by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Marquette University, for example, canceled a debate it had planned for days before the April election.
Both campaigns also said they’ve committed to editorial board meetings with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Wisconsin State Journal.
The March 28 forum Protasiewicz agreed to is being hosted by All Voting is Local, Campus Vote Project, and VoteRiders. The forum is focused on younger voters, and Kelly’s campaign said it didn’t receive an invitation to the event.
“These are just a few of the many opportunities voters will have to compare Janet’s record as an experienced prosecutor and judge who is committed to protecting our constitutional freedoms and following the law, and Dan Kelly, an extremist who will use this seat to promote his own political agenda,” said Protasiewicz spokesperson Sam Roecker.
Protasiewicz’s decision comes as the liberal Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge has enjoyed a significant fundraising advantage over the former conservative justice. In addition to the $6.5 million that Protasiewicz has reserved on TV between the primary and the April 4 election, groups had reported $2.9 million in independent expenditures supporting her post-primary, according to a WisPolitics.com tally.
Kelly has yet to put an ad on the air, either before the primary or since. Groups supporting him have reported $1.2 million in independent expenditures as of this afternoon.
The March 21 debate will be livestreamed by Channel3000.com. It will then be replayed at 4 p.m. by WISC-TV and WKBT-TV.
See the media advisory here.
The Milwaukee Press Club, WisPolitics.com and the Rotary Club of Milwaukee will host a newsmaker luncheon with Kelly on March 14, the groups announced.
Organizers said Protasiewicz declined an invitation to join the event, citing scheduling as the reason.
The groups had planned to do separate interviews with the candidates on the same day.
See the release here.