MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Candidates for the Wisconsin Supreme Court and state schools superintendent jabbed at each other Wednesday as they filed their nomination signatures, attacking each other's tactics and trading barbs over experience.
The signatures are still subject to review by the state Government Accountability Board. Barring any objections, voters will see incumbent Justice Pat Roggensack, Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone and lemon law attorney Vince Megna on the Supreme Court ballot. The trio will face off in a Feb. 19 primary. The top two vote-getters will advance to the April 2 general election. Incumbent Tony Evers and state Rep. Don Pridemore will square off in a two-person race for superintendent that same day.
The candidates had until the end of the day Wednesday to submit nomination papers with at least 2,000 signatures.
Roggensack turned in what she said were 4,000 signatures to the GAB last week. Fallone submitted what he said were 3,246 signatures Wednesday afternoon. Megna turned in what he said were 2,214 signatures.
Evers submitted what he said were 5,500 names, far exceeding the GAB's 4,000-signature limit. Pridemore turned in what he said were about 2,600 signatures.
Fallone and Megna told reporters during individual question-and-answer sessions that each of them can restore civility to the Supreme Court. The court's justices are officially nonpartisan, but conservatives and Republicans have typically championed one candidate, while liberals and Democrats have supported another.
A four-justice conservative majority that includes Roggensack currently controls the court. That bloc has been feuding openly with liberal-leaning Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and her ally, Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, for years.
Tensions boiled over last summer when conservative Justice David Prosser wrapped his hands around Bradley's neck during deliberations on a challenge to Republican Gov. Scott Walker's contentious law stripping most public workers of nearly all their union rights.
Fallone called the court dysfunctional. Megna said most of the people who signed his nomination papers couldn't name a single justice but had heard of the Prosser-Bradley altercation and believe the court is "sick."
Fallone chided Megna for declaring he's a Democrat. A justice must be impartial and Megna's declaration only further tarnishes the public's perception of the court, he said.
Fallone himself has named two Democratic operatives to his campaign in Melissa Mulliken, who served as a spokeswoman for Kathleen Falk during Falk's failed bid to unseat Walker in last summer's recall elections, and Nathan Schwantes, who managed Democratic state Sen. Dave Hansen's campaign and worked as an aide to Democratic state Sen. Tim Carpenter. But he denied those moves signal he's partisan, saying they have the most experience.
Megna, for his part, said people want to know where he stands. He told reporters he opposes assault rifles and a state law that requires voters to present photo identification. The photo ID law is being challenged and could end up before the justices. But he rejected the notion he's telegraphing how he would rule on it or on gun control cases, saying he could be neutral and follow what the law says.
Roggensack campaign adviser Brandon Scholz said Supreme Court candidates should be independent and "all sorts of organizations have their internal issues."
"(The race) isn't about the disagreement between two different justices," he said. "This race is about re-electing Pat Roggensack based on her experience on the court."
Evers, meanwhile, said he wants another four years in office so he can keep working on a new school funding mechanism, keeping class sizes small and refining student assessments. He said Pridemore can't match his 36 years of working as a Wisconsin teacher and school administrator.
Pridemore, a Hartford Republican, countered he has served on the state Assembly's education committee, is a father and will reform state schools. He declined to discuss any policy plans beyond saying he believes school safety is a local issue, however, saying he'll unveil his goals in the coming weeks.