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Janet Protasiewicz participates in a debat, in Madison, Wis.
Janet Protasiewicz participates in a debat, in Madison, Wis., in March 21, 2023. Morry Gash / AP

New GOP ads in Wisconsin Supreme Court race focus on crime

Ads from two outside groups and conservative Daniel Kelly's campaign target liberal judge Janet Protasiewicz over prior sentencing decisions.

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Conservative Daniel Kelly and his allies launched new TV ads on Monday in the hotly contested Wisconsin Supreme Court race, targeting liberal Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Janet Protasiewicz on crime and her past sentencing decisions.

The race has become the most expensive state Supreme Court race in U.S. history, and Kelly, a former justice on the court, has been outspent on the airwaves. The April 4 election is technically nonpartisan, but both candidates' ideologies have been clear.

With just over a week to go until the election, Kelly and two aligned outside groups are continuing to push crime as a central issue in the race.

Kelly's campaign released a new ad Monday, according to the ad tracking firm AdImpact, that featuring three Wisconsin sheriffs.

"Our officers risk their lives to protect your families. But law enforcement’s hands are tied when judges like Janet Protasiewicz refuse to hold dangerous criminals accountable," the sheriffs say in the ad.

Fair Courts America, a group backed by GOP megadonor Richard Uihlein that supported Kelly in the February primary, also released a new ad highlighting a sentence in a sexual assault case. Another outside group backing Kelly, the Wisconsin Manufactures & Commerce Issues Mobilization Council, is up with an ad focused on a sexual assault sentencing as well.

Protasiewicz pushed back on the campaign ads that have focused on her sentencing decisions in last week's debate.

"Those commercials are unfair. My entire life has been rooted in protecting our community, and my sentences as well," she said. "I haven't sentenced hundreds, but I have sentenced thousands of people. And it's interesting that a handful of cases have been cherry picked and selected and twisted and insufficient facts have been provided to the electorate"

Protasiewicz later added, "I can tell you I would not have been in homicide and sexual assault court for three years if the parties — the people, the community and the rest of my colleagues — thought i wasn't handing down sufficient sentences to take care of our community."