With the election now just two weeks away – and still not on the radar of most voters – candidates for state Supreme Court participated in a debate on Wednesday in Madison. Rock County circuit court judge James Daley was asked about his decision to accept money from the state Republican party – in what’s supposedly a nonpartisan election.
“Receiving in-kind or monetary donation from a political party is legal, so I’m not going to apologize for accepting a legal, in-kind donation,” Daley said. “You’ll have to talk to the legislature on that. The claim has been that by accepting that donation, I of course am saying that I am supporting everything that the Republican Party of Wisconsin does. Not true.”
Daley is challenging Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, the second-longest serving justice on the state’s high court. “I need and want the votes of Republicans and Democrats and independents and everyone in between, but I strongly believe that political parties should stay out of judicial races,” Bradley said. “It is not my vision that a justice should be supportive or oppose the agenda of any political party.”
Daley said Bradley is a judicial activist with a liberal agenda, and he’s the conservative in the race. He said he has spoken with Republicans and others who agree with his conservative judicial philosophy. “They don’t like that Justice Bradley has brought her extreme liberal personal politics into the court,” he said.
“Our only agenda is an agenda to uphold the constitution, and the law, and to serve the people of Wisconsin,” Bradley said.
Bradley charged that Daley has also accepted financial support from third party, out-of-state special interests. Daley countered that there is no proof of those assertions – and that in past elections Bradley has accepted donations from third party groups, including the AFL-CIO, AFSCE and WEAC.
Tuesday’s debate at the Madison Club was sponsored by the Dane County Bar Association.
The race between Daley and Bradley, along with a constitutional amendment dealing with how the court’s chief justice is chosen, are the only statewide issues on the April 7th ballot. While races for mayor in cities including Madison, Green Bay and Racine will likely drive up local voter interest, state Elections Board director Kevin Kennedy expects statewide turnout of about 20 percent, similar to a typical Supreme Court race.