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Supreme Court primary to narrow field to 2

Candidates running for the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, from left, Tim Burns, Perkins Coie, Hon. Rebecca Dallet, Milwaukee County Circuit Court, Hon. Michael Screnock, Sauk County Circuit Court talk about their stance on the issues Monday, Feb. 5 at the offices of the Milwaukee Bar Association. The Milwaukee Bar organized and hosted the event to get to know the three candidates that are vying to replace Justice Gableman who is not seeking reelection. (Staff photo by Kevin Harnack)

Candidates running for the Supreme Court candidates Tim Burns, of Perkins Coie (from left), Judge Rebecca Dallet, and Judge Michael Screnock talk about their stance on the issues on Feb. 5 at the offices of the Milwaukee Bar Association. (File photo by Kevin Harnack)

By SCOTT BAUER
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Supreme Court primary features two candidates trying to win over more liberal voters and one who is squarely backed by conservatives.

The two highest vote-getters in the officially nonpartisan primary on Tuesday will face one another in the general election scheduled for April 3.

The Madison-based attorney Tim Burns and Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Rebecca Dallet were trying to appeal to Democrats in the race. Sauk County Circuit Judge Michael Screnock has the backing of the state Republican Party, anti-abortion groups and the National Rifle Association.

The winner will replace Justice Michael Gableman, who is retiring from the court. He is part of a five-justice conservative majority. The court also has two liberal justices.

Burns took the unusual step of identifying himself as a Democrat and stating his support for various liberal causes, including fighting voter ID requirements and arguing for income equality. He argued that it’s a farce to call Supreme Court races nonpartisan given how much money liberal and conservative interests put into the contests.

Dallet, first elected judge in 2008, also tried to win over Democrats, running an ad critical of President Donald Trump and saying the state Supreme Court was wrong to end an investigation into Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

She became more outspoken in her positions in response to Burns, presenting herself as an advocate for women’s rights, saying the Supreme Court was wrong to uphold Walker’s Act 10 collective bargaining law and fighting mass incarceration of minorities.

Screnock was appointed a judge by Walker in 2015. He previously worked as an attorney defending the Act 10 law and legislative maps drawn by Republicans that are now being challenged before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Screnock argued he was the only candidate in the race running on his judicial philosophy and not political ideology.

Screnock said he believes in upholding the rule of law and providing strict interpretations of the state constitution.

The Republican Party and conservative groups spent more than $670,000 supporting Screnock. Burns won the backing of several current and former liberal lawmakers and groups, including U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan and Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling. Dallet had the backing of more than 200 judges and 150 other elected officials from throughout the state.

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