By SCOTT BAUER
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley said Wednesday that she will not coordinate with outside groups as she runs to retain her seat, even though it would be legal.
Bradley told The Associated Press that although she won’t coordinate with groups that have spent millions of dollars on recent state Supreme Court races, she also won’t ask them to stay out of her contest.
“It’s not my place to tell them what to do and they have a 1st Amendment right to participate,” Bradley said. She added that if the groups do choose to get involved in the race, she hopes they would “maintain a positive message.”
Bradley’s comments came two days after she was sworn in to serve the remaining 9½ months of Justice Patrick Crooks’ term. He died in office last month. Gov. Scott Walker appointed Bradley to the position on Friday, choosing her over two others.
When Walker picked her, Bradley had already announced she was running for a full 10-year term on the court in an election to be decided April 5. Two other declared candidates — 4th District Appeals Court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg and Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Joe Donald — did not apply for the vacancy.
Both Donald’s and Kloppenburg’s campaigns said they would not coordinate with independent groups.
“But we hope that anyone who tries to persuade voters what to think and how to vote is doing so in an open, transparent way, so voters can judge not only what they are saying, but who is really saying it,” said Donald’s spokesman Garren Randolph.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court in a July ruled there is a 1st Amendment right to such coordination in a case pertaining to a John Doe investigation involving Walker and conservative groups. The court’s ruling cleared the way for candidates to coordinate with issue advocacy groups that don’t tell people who to vote for or against.
Bradley has had the backing of such independent issue advocacy groups before. Wisconsin Club for Growth, a group that supported Walker and was investigated as part of the John Doe probe, spent $167,000 in Bradley’s race to retain her seat on the Milwaukee County Circuit Court in 2013.
And Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s chamber of commerce, has promised to get involved in the upcoming state Supreme Court race.
“We will use issue advocacy to educate the public about the serious policy matters that will come before our Supreme Court and urge the public to sound off on judicial activism,” the group’s spokesman and vice president, Jim Pugh, wrote in a Sept. 15 column posted on its website.
In that column, Pugh called Bradley a “leading conservative” and “judicial traditionalist.” He described Kloppenburg as a “Madison liberal” and Donald as someone who has been soliciting campaign donations from personal injury lawyers and criminal defense attorneys.
WMC also posted a Sept. 1 column from Bradley giving her views about the proper role of the judiciary. There are no similar columns from Donald or Kloppenburg on the website.
WMC has spent millions on recent state Supreme Court races, including $2.2 million for Justice Annette Ziegler in 2007, $1.8 million for Justice Michael Gableman in 2008, $1.1 million for Justice David Prosser in 2011, and $500,000 for Justice Pat Roggensack in 2013.
Pugh did not immediately respond to a message Wednesday asking if the group intends to spend money to help Bradley retain her Supreme Court seat.
Even though Bradley has been appointed to the bench three times by Walker, she refused to say whether she had voted for him in any of his three races, saying it’s irrelevant. She also declined to say how she voted in this year’s Supreme Court election, a nonpartisan race.
Bradley stressed that her personal political beliefs “play no part in my judicial decision making.”