Democratic candidate Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz and the Republican former Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly met Tuesday in their first and only debate for a seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
In the debate, both candidates made accusations against one other, each stating the other was a danger to the state.
“I am running against probably one of the most extreme partisan characters in the history of this state,” Protasiewicz said during the debate.
Kelly repeatedly accused Protasiewicz of lying throughout the debate about topics like the state’s 1849 abortion ban and whether or not either candidate is a threat to Wisconsin’s democracy.
During the debate, the moderator asked how Kelly plans to restore the public’s faith in the court following a volatile election that resulted in people filing complaints against the court members over the ethics of the election.
Kelly responded by saying he plans to improve faith in the court by winning the election and that Protasiewicz has spread defamatory lies about him throughout the campaign.
University of Wisconsin American politics and political theory professor Howard Schweber said this election cycle is highlighting the importance of debates versus advertisement campaigns during elections and how they can impact the audience’s view of candidates.
“It’s the only chance people really have to see what these people are about,” Schweber said. “Television ads are a terribly poor way to judge a candidate.”
Schweber also said that multiple debates are excellent tests of candidates and he was surprised Protasiewicz did not agree to more debates, saying he thought it would make more sense strategically for her to agree to them instead.
The gubernatorial race last year also only had one debate, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.
Schweber said judicial elections differ from legislative and gubernatorial elections because they focus more on the candidates’ philosophies and understanding of the law.
“[If I were a candidate], it would be improper for me to say that I will always rule in favor of one party or another, but it’s entirely proper to say something like ‘I believe Roe versus Wade was correctly or incorrectly decided,'” Schweber said.
Schweber said he thinks this means that candidates are unable to hide behind the details of issues and forces them to address the important questions.
The Supreme Court election’s outcome will be significant as conservatives try to maintain their 4-3 majority in the courts, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The election will take place April 4, and will also include races for the city of Madison mayor, school board and alder people, according to MyVote Wisconsin’s website.