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Bradley stays on Supreme Court with win over Kloppenburg

Abi Nesbitt, a UW-Eau Claire freshman from Mosinee, Wis., votes in her first primary election at UW-Eau Claire's Davies Center on Tuesday morning, April 5, 2016. (Dan Reiland/The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram via AP)

Abi Nesbitt, a UW-Eau Claire freshman from Mosinee, votes in her first primary election at UW-Eau Claire’s Davies Center on Tuesday. (Dan Reiland/The Eau Claire Leader-Telegram via AP)

By TODD RICHMOND
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Rebecca Bradley defeated JoAnne Kloppenburg on Tuesday to win a 10-year term on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court, shrugging off headlines about her inflammatory writings and riding a wave of Republican turnout for the state’s presidential primary to victory.

Just weeks ago it looked like Bradley was in trouble after college articles she wrote 20 years ago bashing gays, AIDS victims and feminists surfaced. The articles generated negative headlines, but they didn’t appear to sway voters. A surge of Republicans who turned out to vote in the GOP presidential primary contest helped carry her over the top.

Bradley campaign spokeswoman Madison Wiberg had no immediate comment Tuesday evening but promised to deliver a statement.

Kloppenburg lost her second bid for a spot on the high court in the last five years. The state appeals court judge and former assistant attorney general tried unsuccessfully in 2011 to unseat conservative-leaning Justice David Prosser.

“I think that there were probably more voters who came out to vote in the Republican primary and they’re probably more likely to be Rebecca Bradley voters,” Kloppenburg campaign manager Melissa Mulliken said. “Ted Cruz and Donald Trump may have decided this race.”

Cruz carried Wisconsin in the Republican presidential primary, slowing Trump’s bid to the nomination outright.

GOP Gov. Scott Walker appointed Bradley to the high court in October to fill the late Justice Patrick Crooks seat. Crooks died in his chambers in September, shortly after announcing he wouldn’t seek re-election. Walker’s appointment marked the third time in three years the governor had handed Bradley a judicial job and gave her the advantage of incumbency heading into the election.

Supreme Court justices are officially nonpartisan, but a bloc of five conservative-leaning justices — counting Bradley — controls the seven-member court. The Bradley-Kloppenburg race wasn’t going to shift the ideological majority, but the contest became a partisan battleground nevertheless.

The conservative organization Wisconsin Alliance for Reform launched an ad blitz against Kloppenburg, spending some $1.54 million as of last week, according to Justice at Stake, a campaign watchdog group.

Liberals painted Bradley as a Walker puppet. The Greater Wisconsin Committee spent at least $345,000 on ads supporting Kloppenburg, Justice at Stake said.

Liberal attack group One Wisconsin Now landed the biggest blow against Bradley, exposing volatile opinion pieces she wrote as a college student for the Marquette Tribune in 1992. She compared homosexuals to drug addicts, saying they kill themselves with their own behavior and said people were better off getting AIDS than cancer because people with the “politically correct disease” would get more money. She also compared abortion to the Holocaust, blasted the feminist movement and agreed with a critic that women are partially responsible for date rape.

Bradley, now 44, apologized repeatedly at campaign appearances and insisted her views have changed.

Republicans rallied around her.

“I’ve gotten to the point I just tune it all out,” Richard McDonnell, a 73-year-old retiree from Verona, said after casting his ballot for Bradley. “Talk about the issues we’re dealing with and not so much about people’s personal life.”

Associated Press writer Bryna Godar also contributed to this report.

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