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Ann Walsh Bradley Coasts to Victory in Supreme Court Race

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, Facebook
Justice Ann Walsh Bradley delivering her acceptance speech.

Justice Ann Walsh Bradley handily won re-election Tuesday to another ten year term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Bradley captured about 58 percent of the vote in defeating Rock County Circuit Judge James Daley.

In addition, voters approved a referendum that will allow members of the high court to choose its chief justice. Wisconsin’s judicial races are officially nonpartisan, but Bradley drew support from liberals while Daley courted conservatives.

Bradley greeted her supporters at Inn on the Park in downtown Madison. She said her victory shows that voters want state Supreme Court elections free of partisan politics.

“We deserve, as a state, to make sure that we stand up against special interest groups that are trying to play outsized roles in Wisconsin’s judicial campaigns," Bradley says. "Everyone in Wisconsin, no matter how rich or poor, no matter for powerful or powerless, no matter if they’re Republican or Democrat or Independent, everyone deserves a fair shake."

Bradley didn’t mention the referendum in her speech. Voters approved a change in the state’s constitution, to allow members of the court to select their leader. Until now, the court’s longest-serving judge served as chief justice.

The business group Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce lobbied for the change. Spokesman Scott Manley says it makes sense, given how leaders in other branches of government get leadership positions.

“Whether we’re talking about the Wisconsin Legislature or in Congress, or even at a town or city government, the leader of the body is not selected based on seniority. The leader of the body is voted by the members serving in that body, and we think that makes the most sense,” Manley says.

WMC helped fund a campaign to urge people to vote ‘yes’ to the change. One person who fought the referendum is former Supreme Court Justice Janine Geske. She appeared in an ad, opposing the measure.

“I have said, maybe it’s a good idea for us to change the constitution and select our chief justice in another way. But, this isn’t about that. There’s been no public discussion, there’s not been a study of other states because there are lots of different ways to do this,” Geske says.

Geske believes those who backed the referendum only did so, to remove Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson from her leadership post. Abrahamson has been chief justice for 19 years. She is considered part of the liberal minority on the court, along with Tuesday’s winner, Ann Walsh Bradley.

Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.
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