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Meet the candidates running in the Wisconsin Supreme Court election

Protasiewicz / Kelly Campaigns
Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz and former Justice Dan Kelly are the top two vote getters and advance to the April 4 general election.

On Tuesday, April 4, Wisconsinites will vote to elect the next justice to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. In recent court terms, there has been a 4-3 conservative majority. Now that conservative Justice Patience Roggensack is retiring, this race will determine whether conservatives or liberals are in control. While technically this is a nonpartisan race, one of the candidates is ideologically conservative and is supported by Republicans, and one is ideologically liberal and supported by Democrats.

Daniel Kelly

Daniel Kelly, judicial candidate for Wisconsin Supreme Court
Campaign website
Daniel Kelly, judicial candidate for state Supreme Court.

Judicial philosophy

Former Justice Daniel Kelly says he is a “strict constructionist” who says that Constitutional rights were created by God and that it’s the court’s job to protect those rights from the government. He also says only the Legislature makes the law and the court’s job is to interpret that law, not bring personal political preferences into decisions. He’s beencommunicating quite a bit with conservatives around the state and out of the state as well looking for support for this race.

What Kelly is known for

Kelly is a former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice who's looking to get his job back. He served on the state Supreme Court from 2016-2020 after being appointed to the post by Walker. Kelly then lost a race to remain in the seat to liberal Justice Jill Karofsky in 2020.

Kelly made news when he held a fundraiser at a Waukesha gun range during his election campaign in 2020 after a shooting of multiple people at Milwaukee’s Molson Coors campus.

Job history

Before serving on the state Supreme Court, Kelly was a law clerk for the Wisconsin Court of Appeals and a longtime corporate and political litigator. He represented Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature in lawsuits over the 2010 redistricting in the state.


Kelly attended Carroll University and Regent University School of Law, the same private Christian university in Virginia Beach, Virginia that Judge Jennifer Dorow attended, although he attended earlier.

Professional associations / community involvement

Kelly's community involvement includes serving as president of the Federalist Society's Milwaukee Chapter and as a member of the State Advisory Board to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. He is also a former member of the advisory panel for the conservative law firm Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.


Kelly is endorsed by current conservative state Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley, Wisconsin Court of Appeals Judge Shelley Grogan and 19 Wisconsin sheriffs. He’s also endorsed by Wisconsin Right to Life, Pro-Life Wisconsin and Wisconsin Family Action.


Kelly was part of the majority opinion that ended the COVID safer-at-home emergency order from Democratic Gov. Tony Evers. Kelly says he is a defender of student free speech and that of religious organizations.

On abortion: The website Guides.Vote points to a 2012 blog article where Kelly wrote that abortion is "a policy deadly to children" and "has as its primary purpose harming children."

Kelly has been endorsed by Wisconsin Right to Life and Pro-Life Wisconsin. Both organizations are in favor of banning abortion in the state — Pro-Life Wisconsin in all circumstances and Wisconsin Right to Life in all circumstances but to save the life of the mother.

On redistricting: Kelly has represented Republicans in the Legislature who drew Wisconsin’s maps in 2011 that have greatly favored Republicans.

Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter

Janet Protasiewicz

Campaign website
Judge Janet Protasiewicz, judicial candidate for state Supreme Court.

Judicial philosophy

Judge Janet Protasiewicz is a self-described lifelong advocate for victims of crime. She says democracy and the criminal and civil justice system are “under attack by radical partisanship.” Protasiewicz says she has developed a reputation for being fair and impartial.

What Protasiewicz is known for

In 2017, Protasiewicz received the Community Involvement Award from the Association of Women Lawyers. In 2018, she earned the Wisconsin Law Journal’s Women in the Law Women of Influence Award.

Job history

Protasiewicz has served as a Milwaukee County Circuit Court judge for nearly a decade and has more than 25 years of experience as an assistant district attorney.


Protasiewicz earned a bachelor’s degree from UW-Milwaukee and law degree from Marquette University Law School.

Professional associations / community involvement

According to her campaign website, Protasiewicz has served on the boards of multiple organizations, including the Association of Marquette University Women, the American Red Cross-Wisconsin Chapter, the Polish Heritage Alliance and Marquette University Law School Alumni Association. She belongs to the Association of Women Lawyers, TEMPO, Professional Dimensions, Serjeants Inns of Court, Foley Inns of Court and Fairchild Inns of Court.


Protasiewicz has lined up more than 800 endorsements, including that of liberal state Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Dallet. Protasiewicz is endorsed by Milwaukee officials like Common Council President Jose Perez and Alderwoman JoCasta Zamarripa. A full list of endorsements is available on her campaign website.


In a statement, Protasiewicz said, “Radical right-wing extremists [are attacking] our most closely-held constitutional rights.”

“We know that it’s not up to the government to decide who we can or can’t love,” she said. “We know the 2020 presidential election resulted in Joe Biden’s election. We must restore confidence that judges aren’t just trying to reach their favored outcomes, but actually applying the law and the constitution. I’m running to restore integrity to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and get politics out of the courtroom.”

On abortion: "Philosophically, values leading me to believe that a woman’s right to make decisions over her own body should be just that, not made by the government but made by the person who’s ultimately being affected by them," she told the Wisconsin Examiner.

On redistricting: "We know that something is wrong. We know that this 'least change rule' certainly inhibits people's ability to cast their vote in a vote that counts. We are a representative democracy. Just that. A representative democracy. Everybody's vote should count," Protasiewicz said during a debate.

Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Election day is April 4. Check out WUWM's voter guide to learn about the races on the ballot and how to vote.


Eddie is a WUWM news reporter.
Maayan is a WUWM news reporter.
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