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Candidates, groups spent record $10M on Wisconsin court race

This combination of Nov. 19, 2019 photos shows Marquette University Law Professor Ed Fallone, left, Dane County Circuit Court Judge Jill Karofsky, center, and Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly, during a candidate's forum for a seat on the state Supreme Court. On Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020 voters will narrow the field from three to two for the general election in April. (John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal via AP, File)

Ed Fallone, from left, Judge Jill Karofsky and Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly. (John Hart/Wisconsin State Journal via AP, File)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Outside groups and the three candidates combined to spend a record $10 million in the state Supreme Court election this spring, according to a report released by a government watchdog Thursday.

The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign’s report shows the three candidates — liberals Jill Karofsky and Ed Fallone, along with conservative incumbent Daniel Kelly — together spent just over $5 million, a record for candidate spending. The previous record for combined candidate spending was $3.7 million in 2019.

Outside-group spending topped $5 million for the first time in a state Supreme Court race, the report said, surpassing the previous record of nearly $4.8 million in 2008. The previous record for combined candidate and group spending was about $8.2 million in 2019.

Karofsky defeated Kelly in the April 6 general election. She spent $2.7 million, a record for a single state Supreme Court candidate. Outside groups supporting her spent nearly $2.5 million.

Groups backing Fallone spent about $10,300.

The biggest outside spender was A Better Together Political Fund, which poured out nearly $1.9 million to support Karofsky.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s largest business organization, was the next biggest spender, dropping about $1.1 million on ads attacking Karofsky. The third-biggest spender was the Republican State Leadership Committee. It spent about $900,000 on ads and texts supporting Kelly and attacking Karofsky.

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