By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The candidates for Wisconsin Supreme Court made a final push to connect with voters on Monday, with Justice Ann Walsh Bradley focusing on the Democratic stronghold of Milwaukee while challenger Rock County Circuit Judge James Daley was in the more conservative Fox Valley.
The officially nonpartisan race for a 10-year term on the state’s highest court has generated little buzz heading into Tuesday’s election. Voters also will decide whether to amend the state Constitution to allow justices to select their own chief rather than the title going to the court’s most senior member, as it’s been for 126 years.
Much of the state’s attention is on sports: The Milwaukee Brewers open their season at home Monday afternoon, and the University of Wisconsin men’s basketball team plays for the national title Monday night.
Daley hoped to capitalize on Brewers opener by campaigning outside Miller Park, where thousands of people tailgate before, after and during games.
Bradley didn’t plan to stop by the Brewers game, but was scheduled to meet with voters at a Milwaukee coffee shop and make other stops around the city, said her spokesman, Kory Kozloski. Daley had plans to attend a chamber of commerce luncheon in the Fox Valley before touring a factory in Columbus, said his spokesman, Brian Nemoir.
Wisconsin’s Supreme Court has seven justices, with conservatives having a solid four-member majority. Bradley is part of the liberal minority along with Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson. Daley has actively courted Republicans during the campaign, drawing criticism from Bradley, who says he’s politicizing the race. But the only outside group to spend money on television advertising is a liberal attack group that ran a spot criticizing Daley’s sentencing of a convicted child abuser.
Daley has run no television ads and no outside groups have done so on his behalf. The Brennan Center for Justice and Justice at Stake, judicial watchdog groups, said last week that Bradley had booked about $510,000 in ads as of March 31, while the Greater Wisconsin Commission had spent about $102,000 on its spot attacking Daley.
The state chamber of commerce gave $600,000 to a group called Vote Yes for Democracy, which is running a television ad urging passage of the constitutional amendment changing how the Supreme Court chief justice is selected. If the ballot measure is approved voters, the chief justice would be elected every two years by a majority vote of justices on the court for no more than six consecutive years.
Opponents of the measure, which was put on the ballot by the Republican-controlled Legislature, say it’s a blatant attempt to remove Abrahamson from the post she’s held since 1996.
The Greater Wisconsin Committee, through a group called Make Your Vote Count, is running an ad opposing the amendment. But it reported raising only $80,000 through March 23, far less than what Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce was spending to get the amendment passed.
State elections officials predict turnout statewide will be 20 percent. There are several local issues on the ballot, including the Madison mayoral race and dozens of school-funding referendums, which could drive up votes in pockets of the state.Follow @sbauerAP