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State Supreme Court candidates spar over political ties

By BRYNA GODAR
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s state Supreme Court candidates sparred over judicial philosophy and political ties in a debate Friday night, trading familiar jabs in the increasingly heated race for a full 10-year term on the court.

In their second debate of the week, Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley and Appeals Court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg criticized each other for being too biased or partisan and retreaded debate over opinionated writings from Bradley’s college years.

Bradley’s anti-gay and anti-feminist college writings from 24 years ago have become a central point in the campaign since liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now brought them to light in early March.

Bradley has repeatedly apologized for the writings, saying her views started to change almost immediately after she wrote them as she heard from offended fellow students. Kloppenburg has argued Bradley’s career and her support from outspoken conservatives don’t show she’s changed.

“I have no interest in going into my opponents’ soul, but her career, when you look objectively at her career, shows little evidence of change,” Kloppenburg said.

Bradley said she found it concerning that Kloppenburg doesn’t believe people can change, especially in their youth.

“It’s essential that judges understand that people do change,” Bradley said. “Because we sit in judgment of other people, we must believe in the power of redemption.”

Both candidates also criticized each other as being too biased or for having political ties.

Kloppenburg went after Bradley for leaving oral arguments early in February to speak at an event hosted by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, which has spent heavily in support of conservative justices in the past. Kloppenburg also criticized Bradley for her ties to Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who has appointed Bradley to judgeships three times, most recently to her seat on the high court in October.

Bradley largely has the backing of conservatives, while liberals are backing Kloppenburg, who had heavy support from liberal groups in a failed 2011 state Supreme Court bid against Justice David Prosser.

Bradley said Kloppenburg’s judicial philosophy is starkly different from hers and will allow her to introduce her personal policy preferences into her decisions.

Both Bradley and Kloppenburg continued to dodge questions about state and national rulings on voter ID and same-sex marriage, citing the possibility that those issues would come before them as judges.

The candidates will again square off Tuesday before the Dane County Bar Association and Wednesday before the Madison Rotary Club. The election is April 5.

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