A Right-Wing War In High Court Race
It's getting nasty: Mark Belling blasts candidate Kelly and Justice Bradley attacks candidate Dorow and Belling.
The all-important Wisconsin Supreme Court race has displayed no rancor between the two liberal candidates, Janet Protasiewicz and Everett Mitchell, but a division between the two conservatives, Dan Kelly and Jennifer Dorow is getting increasingly nasty.
Kelly, who was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 2016 but lost his bid for election in 2020, had entered the race for an open court seat in September and didn’t take kindly to a second conservative, Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Dorow, entering months later. “I’m struggling to think of any other reason that she would believe she would be a qualified candidate for the Supreme Court.” Kelly told an Associated Press reporter, accusing Dorow of taking advantage of the national publicity she got for presiding over the trial of Darrell Brooks.
Veteran conservative talk radio host Mark Belling soon joined the fray, writing an extraordinary column for the Waukesha Freeman charging that Kelly, like Donald Trump is simply running to regain his old job and seems “mostly motivated to avenge an unfair defeat.”
Belling charged that Kelly’s campaign “has no enthusiasm and many conservatives are instead embracing… Dorow,” who he compared to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, calling her the “now” candidate. versus has-beens like Trump and Kelly.
“Kelly is sputtering,” Belling went on. “His campaign manager, Alex Walker (Scott’s son), has quit. Other conservatives are already frosted that Kelly supporters are trying to plant anti-Dorow stories in the media. During the recent period for circulating nominating petitions, Kelly struggled to find volunteers to go out and solicit signatures and turned in only a few hundred over the minimum requirement.”
“Dorow’s campaign is organic and filled with enthusiasm. Kelly’s campaign is soulless dud consisting of generic national PAC dollars,” Belling charged. “Kelly should get out of the race now. The alternative is to, in desperation, use his PAC money donations to slime Dorow and pave the way for a liberal to win the general election.”
If it has been followers of Kelly planting anti-Dorow stories, they are doing a very good job. On November 30, the day after Dorow entered the race, Dan Bice did a column reporting on Dorow’s past opposition to cash bail, and noted that “Conservatives dropped millions of dollars on TV ads criticizing Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes in this year’s U.S. Senate race for his opposition to cash bail for defendants awaiting trial.” Bice also quoted Belling criticizing Dorow in 2021, saying “she has consistently defended the lenient bail decisions made by court commissioners.”
And on January 26, Bice did a column reporting suspicions that Dorow’s son might have supplied fentanyl to Cade Reddington, an 18-year-old UW-Milwaukee freshman who died of fentanyl poisoning on Nov. 4, 2021. That seemed a low blow to Wisconsin Right Now, which did a story blasting Bice’s “Reckless & Unfair Attack on Jennifer Dorow’s Son,” and calling it “irresponsible journalism.”
Yet that wasn’t all the pounding of Dorow in the media. There has also been a campaign by state Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley and Wisconsin Appeals Court Judge Shelley Grogan, to defend Kelly and vilify Dorow. For good measure Bradley took some shots at Belling.
“Justice Bradley and myself reviewed the record of all four candidates and we concluded that only one has proven that he is a constitutional conservative. And that’s Dan Kelly,” Grogan declared. “We saw that at the candidate forum. Only Dan stood up to the liberals.”
Whereas Dorow didn’t, Grogan noted. Dorow has been “pushing the same liberal bail policies that John Chisholm pushes in Milwaukee County.” Grogan charged, adding that Dorow’s courtroom decisions are not those of a conservative: “Go and look at Judge Dorow’s sentencing where she did not invite cameras into the courtroom.”
Bradley piled on in an op ed for the Freeman disagreeing with Belling and suggesting Dorow was unfit to serve on the high court. At the candidate debate, Bradley noted, “Judge Dorow was the only candidate who responded with prepared statements read from a binder… A candidate using a binder to provide answers to questions is simply unprepared for the rigors of a statewide campaign, much less to do the job of a Supreme Court justice.”
Bradley went on to bash Belling for “name-calling” and “hypocrisy” and “refusing to objectively investigate the candidates and report their records.”
“Mr. Belling is doing the very thing he (wrongly) accuses Justice Kelly of doing: sliming the only proven constitutional conservative in this race, thereby ‘paving the way’ for the progressive candidate to win the general election.”
Bradley and Dorow blasted away at still more targets in this circular firing squad. Without naming him, they fired potshots at conservative Supreme Court Justice Brian Hagedorn, who has had the temerity to vote with the court’s three liberals on a tiny minority of cases. “We can’t trust a candidate’s words anymore,” Grogan warned. “We saw that in 2019” (when Hagedorn won office).
“I once supported a candidate on blind faith,” Bradley declared. “I won’t make that mistake again.”
There they agree with Belling: all three are part of the hate Hagedorn club, but have drawn different conclusions from his election.
Grogan, by contrast, says that “In the past few years, with all due respect to Justice Roggensack, her candidate selection has been questionable.”
Bradley writes that “Roggensack declined to endorse me when I was challenged by uberliberal Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg in 2016. Most recently, Justice Roggensack endorsed Judge Jeff Davis (appointed by Governor Evers) for the court of appeals instead of endorsing Judge Shelley Grogan, the most pre-eminent constitutional conservative on that bench.”
Oh yes, Grogan and Bradley are angry that Roggensack didn’t endorse them in their elections, and now that she is about to give up her power, they’ve decided to unload on the elder justice as well. With nary a shot fired by the liberals, the two conservative candidates for the Supreme Court are both bleeding profusely, victims of a right flank attack.
If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits.