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First Butler-Gableman debate takes place online

Using a new forum, Wisconsin’s two Supreme Court candidates debated over the phone last week, during an online radio program broadcast through the Internet.

Justice Louis B. Butler Jr. and Judge Michael Gableman participated in their first debate on the show, PantherTalk, which is hosted by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee junior Kyle Duerstein. The student’s show runs every Tuesday on www.blogtalkradio.com.

The setting wasn’t the only unique aspect of the program, which allowed listeners to call in and ask questions of the candidates. In another unique twist, Duerstein let the candidates ask each other the first questions of the debate.

Noting that he has spent more time on the circuit court bench than his opponent, Gableman asked Butler why the justice was indicating his experience exceeded the Burnett County Circuit Court judge’s own experience.

Butler responded, saying that his judicial experience – serving on the Milwaukee Municipal Court, Milwaukee Circuit Court and Supreme Court – began about the time that Gableman graduated law school.

Butler followed up by asking Gableman why he was taking an “aggressive negative approach” to campaigning by attacking his record as a justice. Gableman responded by referencing a news article from Butler’s first Supreme Court race against Justice Diane S. Sykes in which Butler indicated the justice’s record was fair game.

Throughout the discussion, Gableman charged Butler with legislating from the bench. The justice said that just because individuals differed in their interpretation of the law, that did not mean one of them was legislating.

Listeners called in with their questions ranging from the nonpartisan nature of the race to who they identified with on the U.S. Supreme Court. Butler said he identifies with characteristics of Justices Thurgood Marshall, William J. Brennan and John Marshall Harlan. Gableman admired Chief Justice John G. Roberts and former Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist.

The candidates also discussed the merits of the clean campaign pledge and campaign finance reform.

Duerstein was excited about the online debate, which allowed candidates to take a little more than an hour out of their day and join the discussion regardless of where they happened to be. The candidates were scheduled to participate in a debate in Milwaukee one week earlier, but Gableman was unable to make it due to weather conditions. The UWM student noted that weather was not an issue with his program.

The full debate can be heard at the Blog Talk Radio site.

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