By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Pat Roggensack will face Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone in the April 2 general election in her bid for a second term on the state’s high court.
Roggensack easily advanced in Tuesday’s primary with more than twice as many votes as Fallone, based on unofficial returns. Milwaukee attorney Vince Megna finished a distant third.
Roggensack, who outraised both of her opponents, was the only one of the three to run television advertisements in advance of the election.
Fewer than 10 percent of voters were expected to cast ballots Tuesday. The nonpartisan race for the Supreme Court was the only statewide contest.
Roggensack based her campaign on her nearly 17 years’ experience as a judge, including the past 10 on the Supreme Court. Neither of her two challengers has judicial experience.
“Our message of experience is resonating with the voters and they are thinking about who they want to hold this office and what qualifications they should have for it,” Roggensack said after her primary win.
Roggensack said she thought her experience and background as a judge contrasted well for the general election with Fallone, who has worked as a private practice attorney and law school professor but not as a judge.
Fallone described Roggensack’s showing in the primary as impressive and branded himself the underdog. But he wasn’t planning on changing his approach to the campaign.
“I just have to keep sticking to my message which is we need to fix the court, we need to fix the dysfunction,” Fallone said.
Megna said he was supporting Fallone in the general election, but he faces an uphill battle against Roggensack.
“It’s going to be a really tough race,” Megna said of Fallone’s chances. “I really don’t know what his plan is, how he plans to win it.”
Roggensack is endorsed by more than 100 judges, 50 county sheriffs and two dozen district attorneys.
Fallone and Megna argued that Roggensack is part of a dysfunctional Supreme Court that has suffered through high-profile altercations, including in 2011 when Justice Ann Walsh Bradley accused Justice David Prosser of choking her during an argument. Prosser denied the allegation and a special prosecutor declined to bring charges.
Roggensack has tried to distance herself from that incident even though she witnessed it.
“I’m not connected to that inappropriate interaction,” she said Tuesday.
Roggensack is generally viewed as part of the four-justice conservative majority on the court with Prosser, Annette Ziegler and Michael Gableman.
Fallone said the court would function better, and its public image could be restored, by replacing Roggensack.
Fallone said he would bring valuable experience to the court in constitutional and corporate law. Fallone is endorsed by unions representing public workers and teachers as well as the AFL-CIO.
Megna, a consumer law attorney who built his career on successfully suing auto manufacturers and dealers for selling faulty vehicles, tried to shake up the race by declaring himself to be a Democrat. He also took stands on issues expected to come before the court and encouraged his rivals to do the same. Neither did.
Megna also stood by a series of outlandish satirical videos he made over the past year making fun of Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans.
Chris Astrella, 32, who works as the town clerk in Blooming Grove, braved wind-blown snow to vote for Fallone in Sun Prairie.
But he said his vote was really anti-Roggensack, whom he said is too closely aligned with Prosser. Astrella said he thought Prosser’s behavior had made the court a national laughingstock. He also said he thought Roggensack has worked to advance Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s agenda.[polldaddy poll=”6911846″]
“It’s just so obvious,” Astrella said. “Judges on all levels of government are supposed to be nonpartisan.”
David Rogman, 43, a retail manager who lives in Milwaukee, said he voted for Roggensack. He said he normally leans more conservative in his votes. He said the justices’ behavior has been ridiculous, but he doesn’t believe Roggensack has had anything to do with it and she’s fair-minded.
“She’ll do the rule of law and not try to legislate from the bench,” he said.
Susan Slater, 69, who retired from working in a grant development office, voted for Fallone in Milwaukee because “he’s the best candidate.” Slater said she normally leans Democratic and she wanted a change after the infighting.
“I think they are all wacko,” she said.