Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates agree to 1 debate ahead of April 4 election

NOW: Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates agree to 1 debate ahead of April 4 election

Updated: 3:22 p.m. on March 7, 2023

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Despite invitations for multiple events, state Supreme Court candidates Daniel Kelly and Janet Protasiewicz will only meet for a face-to-face debate once ahead of the April 4 election.

Daniel Kelly, backed by conservatives, criticized his opponent for the lack of invitations she accepted for debates.

The Protasiewicz campaign said in a statement to CBS 58 their candidate has met with voters through other opportunities.

"While Dan Kelly apparently would like even more opportunities to stand next to Janet while he lectures Wisconsinites about his extreme views, she has an aggressive schedule and will continue meeting voters across Wisconsin," Protasiewicz campaign spokesperson Sam Roecker said.

Political experts say it's a strategy the Protasiewicz campaign is implementing as they perceive themselves as having the advantage over Kelly at this stage of the race.

"The logic the politicians use when they want to minimize debates is that if they're ahead, why debate?" UW-Milwaukee Professor Emeritus Mordecai Lee told CBS 58 in an interview.

Protasiewicz received more votes in the primary than Kelly and Jennifer Dorow -- the other conservative candidate -- combined.

The contest is the most expensive state Supreme Court race in U.S. history.

In an example of the high-profile nature of the campaign, Emmy award-winning actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus tweeted out support for Protasiewicz on Tuesday, less than a month away from the April 4 election.

Lee said the lack of debates hurts voters who may want to learn more about the candidates but said it's part of the growing trend of state Supreme Court races becoming more partisan.

"Now we might as well just say that these are partisan races because they're just throwing the same amount of mud and doing the same games about debating or not debating that you'd see in a partisan race," Lee said.

The one and only televised debate between the candidates will be March 21 hosted by CBS 58 sister station News 3 Now (WISC), CBS 58's Capitol Connection partner WisPolitics and the Wisconsin State Bar.

Published: 8:28 p.m. on March 6, 2023

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates Janet Protasiewicz and Dan Kelly have agreed to meet in at least one debate ahead of the April 4 election.

The candidates' campaigns announced Monday that they will meet in a televised debate sponsored by the State Bar of Wisconsin, WISC-TV and WisPolitics.com on March 21.

The winner of the election will determine the court's ideological leaning for the next two years.

Right now, conservative-leaning justices hold a 4-3 majority, but conservative Justice Patience Roggensack is stepping down, creating the open spot Kelly and Protasiewicz want.

The race is officially nonpartisan but conservatives back Kelly and liberals support Protasiewicz.

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