Two Outagamie County circuit court judges appointed in 2007 are about to see if their brief tenures will be prolonged.
Branch 2 Judge Nancy J. Krueger will be the first to know, as she faces a pair of challengers for the seat. Appleton attorney Daniel J. Hoff and Outagamie Court Commissioner Maureen Roberts Budiac are hoping to top the incumbent in the Feb. 19 primary.
Judge Mitchell J. Metropulos, who was also appointed last August by Gov. Jim Doyle, faces Outagamie District Attorney Carrie Schneider on April 1.
Both Hoff, 44, and Budiac, 42, indicated that the timing was right for a circuit court run, given that Krueger has spent less than five months on the bench.
“I had made a decision about 10 years ago, that I would run for a judicial opening at some point,” said Hoff. “There is rarely an opportunity like this in the county, but I wanted to practice law long enough to be comfortable to do a good job on the bench.”
Even Krueger admitted that her status as the incumbent has a limited advantage.
“There are probably some benefits, but it’s not the same as being in this position for six or 12 years,” said Krueger. “Those judges are hard to unseat and probably the reason I have two people running against me in the primary.”
Budiac, 42, is emphasizing her eight years as a court commissioner and says she has the most “decision-making” experience amongst the candidates.
“I have been advocating one side or the other for eight years,” said Budiac, who spends about a third of her time on family court matters.
Hoff, 44, has spent almost 20 years as a general practitioner with Glenn, Hoff & Hoff, SC, in Appleton. He has done a significant amount of family law work as well as representing small business in civil trials.
Given her opponents lack of criminal trial experience, Krueger, 53, expects she will have an advantage in that area. She estimated that more than half of her daily calendar deals with criminal matter and she has experience as a county prosecutor.
“I had 28 years of legal experience prior to taking the bench and I think more jury trial experience in the civil arena than my opponents,” said Krueger. “That certainly helps when more complex cases come before the court.”
Despite having to campaign in the fifth-largest county in the state, none of the candidates planned on spending excessively.
Through Jan. 31, Krueger has personally invested about $10,000 and received approximately the same from contributors. She said based on recent elections in surrounding counties, she may end up spending close to $35,000.
“It might be a bit more expensive around here,” said Krueger, who has spent about $2,600 through the end of January.
Not the case for Budiac, who has raised about $7,500 and spent around $4,000. Her primary campaign tactic is a personal touch with voters.
“Some say this could cost upwards of $100,000, but it’s not going to cost me that,” said Budiac. “I’ve been working to just talk to people and express my beliefs and listen to theirs.”
Hoff has raised and spent the most of the three candidates. According to his report filed with the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, Hoff has raised more than $44,000 and spent about $9,000.
Hoff was modest in his prediction as to whether his investment will translate to a victory in the primary.
“I don’t employ people for statistical data or to determine where we sit and what work still needs to be done,” said Hoff. “All I know is we’ve been working hard to get the message out and I make no prognostications.”