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Janet Protasiewicz and Dan Kelly.
Janet Protasiewicz and Dan Kelly.Fair Courts America; Protasiewicz for WI Supreme Court

$1.5 million already spent on ads in one week since Wisconsin Supreme Court primary

A closely-watched Supreme Court race in Wisconsin has drawn significant ad spending since two candidates advanced to the general election last week.


Just two candidates, one liberal and one conservative, are left in the race for an open Wisconsin Supreme Court seat. And they've already drawn over $1 million in ad spending in just one week, according to AdImpact.

This $1.4 million in spending comes in just one week since the primary election (including what's booked to be spent on Tuesday), where two candidates advanced from a non-partisan field of four. Before the primary, $9.5 million was spent on the airwaves for the race.

And there's almost $7 million in future ad spending that's already been booked from Tuesday through the April 4 general election, with most of it supporting the more liberal candidate.

Spending in favor of conservative Daniel Kelly

The first ad attacking liberal candidate Judge Janet Protasiewicz in the general election hit the airwaves on Tuesday, accusing Protasiewicz of leniency against criminals and "[putting] our families at risk."

The group behind that ad, Fair Courts America, spent almost $3 million on ads ahead of the February 21 primary. The group is funded by Richard Uihlein, a GOP megadonor and founder of the shipping supplies company Uline.

So far, Fair Courts America has only booked $815,000 worth of ad time between now and April 4. And Kelly's campaign has so far spent nothing on TV ads in the primary or the general election.

But those numbers could change as the race continues to develop.

Spending in favor of liberal Judge Janet Protasiewicz

Comparatively, Portasiewicz's campaign has booked over $6 million alone from Wednesday through the general election.

Between the Feb. 21 primary and now, her campaign spent $644,000 in just one week.

Most of Portasiewicz’s ads in the post-primary week focus on painting Kelly as an "extremist."

In one ad, a narrator says, "Extremist Dan Kelly wants abortion banned even in cases of rape, incest and the health of the mother."

In another ad, a narrator says, "Dan Kelly won't keep our community safe," criticizing him for clients he had as a defense lawyer.

"Do you want someone like that on the Supreme Court? Dan Kelly, an extremist who doesn’t care about us," the narrator goes on to say.

Another group, A Better Wisconsin Together, has also spent over $600,000 on TV ads since the Feb. 21 primary. The ads have also painted Kelly as an extremist, telling voters he could be the deciding vote on the Court about whether to repeal or keep an 1849 law that bans abortion and is back on the table following the repeal of Roe v. Wade at the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

Ahead of the primary, A Better Wisconsin Together spent over $2.25 million and they've booked $489,000 worth of airtime between now and the early April general election. Protasiewicz' campaign has booked $6 million worth of airtime in the same period.