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Conservative candidates for Wisconsin Supreme Court promote gun range, fighting liberal activists

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Chuck Quirmbach
Waukesha County Judge Jennifer Dorow and former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly, speak during a forum Monday night at Boozhag's Clubhouse in Nashotah.

The two conservative candidates for Wisconsin Supreme Court continue to try to spell out their differences with each other, ahead of the Feb. 21 primary.

There are four people running to replace retiring justice Patience Roggensack on the seven member state court. The two more liberal candidates are Milwaukee County Judge Janet Protasiewicz and Dane County Judge Everett Mitchell. The conservatives are Waukesha County Judge Jennifer Dorow and former State Supreme Court Justice
Dan Kelly.

Chuck Quirmbach
The four candidates for Wisconsin Supreme Court--(left to right) Jennifer Dorow, Dan Kelly, Everett Mitchell and Janet Protasiewicz listen to a question, during a January 9 forum in Madison.

With Wisconsin split politically, one theory is one liberal and one conservative will get through the February primary.

If so, which conservative?

During a forum at a Boozhag's Clubhouse, a tavern in Nashotah, Monday night, Kelly and Dorow both mentioned liberals are trying to take over not just the State Supreme Court, but all of Wisconsin.

In describing how she would stand up to them, Dorow talked about presiding over last fall's Waukesha parade deaths trial and often verbally sparring with defendant Darrell Brooks.

"Who here, got to see me in October of last year in a very challenging case? Anyone? Do ya' think I have it in me to take it to them? I absolutely do!" Dorow emphasized.

Kelly says he's also not afraid of a fight.

"I come from a pugilistic people. Kelly? You might recognize as a strong Irish name. What do the Irish do?," Kelly asked. An audience member replied, "Fight." Kelly continued: "They fight. Of course they do. What else to they do? They drink! You're in a bar with an Irishman. I'm happy to go out and fight against the activists. Truly I am," Kelly said.

Chuck Quirmbach
The entrance to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, at the State Capitol building in Madison.

The legislative arm of the National Rifle Association and a national conservative student group, Turning Point America, sponsored the forum.

Dorow talked about the pistol, rifle and tactical range she and her husband want to open in Waukesha County.

"It's going to be incredible. It's going to be a wedding venue, special events, and again a training center. I'm so excited. If he had his way, he would have broke ground yesterday," Dorow said.

Kelly didn't say much about guns or weddings. But he did take verbal aim at State Supreme Court Justice Brian Hagedorn, who usually votes with three others on the court to form a conservative majority. Kelly says too often, Hagedorn sides with three liberal justices.

"Do you remember him?," Kelly said to boos from the audience. Kelly went on: "Oh, so you do? Brian comes to us four years ago and he says, 'I'm a constitutional conservative. I'll uphold the constitution. I'll preserve the rule of law.'"

Kelly says Hagedorn isn't really a constitutional conservative, whereas Kelly says he has a long record of being one. Then-Governor Scott Walker (R) appointed Kelly to the state court in 2016, following Kelly's years in the private bar heading the Milwaukee lawyers chapter of the Federalist Society—a group that says government exists to preserve freedom.

But in 2020, Kelly lost to Jill Karofsky in the election to hold his Supreme Court seat.

Dorow, a 2011 Walker appointee to the Waukesha bench, has won two unopposed races since then. Taking a swipe at Kelly, Dorow said, "It's important the justice you elect, can win."

Dorow and Kelly criticized, at length, Protasiewicz Monday night and said little or nothing about Mitchell, perhaps signaling which liberal they expect on the April ballot.

Wisconsin's spring primary election is Tuesday, February 21, 2023 and the spring general election is Tuesday, April 4, 2023. If you have a question about voting or the races, submit it below.


Chuck Quirmbach joined WUWM in August 2018. He focuses his longform stories on health, innovation, science, technology, transportation, utilities and business.
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