Despite Protasiewicz's absence, Kelly continues attack during panel event

NOW: Despite Protasiewicz’s absence, Kelly continues attack during panel event

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- With three weeks remaining until the end of voting for a state Supreme Court race with national attention and record-setting spending, one of the candidates vying for a seat on the state's highest court went after their opponent during a Milwaukee Press Club Newsmaker Luncheon event Tuesday, March 14.

Daniel Kelly spoke before an audience and a panel of journalists that included CBS 58 reporter Victor Jacobo at the Milwaukee Rotary Club. Kelly's opponent, Janet Protasiewicz, received an invitation to participate in the event but declined due to scheduling conflicts, according to her campaign.

Even without his opponent there, Kelly went on offense.

"I think we have an election before us that is like no other, and I think that is largely because my opponent is a candidate like no other," Kelly said in his opening remarks.

Though Protasiewicz was absent, her campaign was not without buzz.

Tuesday afternoon she received a boost from a tweet from Hillary Clinton, calling on people to support Protasiewicz.

"Next month, the Wisconsin Supreme Court election will determine the future of reproductive rights for millions," Clinton wrote in the tweet. "[Protasiewicz] is the progressive candidate who believes women should be able to make their own health care decisions. Help elect her."

On March 7, Protasiewicz received backing from Emmy award-winning actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

The national attention highlights how the race is the most expensive for a state Supreme Court in U.S. history, with spending already going well above $20 million with three weeks remaining.

Protasiewicz has been open about voicing support for a woman's right to choose on the topic of abortion, as well as saying Wisconsin's GOP-drawn district maps are rigged.

Kelly, who is backed by conservatives and was appointed by former Governor Scott Walker in 2016, has avoided discussing his personal views on those issues, saying it's not appropriate for judicial candidates to do so.

CBS 58's Victor Jacobo asked Kelly what his thoughts were on the trend of high spending in the campaign as well as the state Supreme Court races being discussed more and more in partisan terms.

"There's a fair amount of concern about what might occur if my opponent's template works," Kelly replied. "That people might pick that up and use that and other courts around the country to drive courts away from constitutional and prescribed duties and into a role that is more akin to a Legislature."

The Protasiewicz campaign sent a statement to CBS 58 saying in part: "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. 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.”

Early voting begins in Milwaukee on March 21.

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