Jefferson County Circuit Judge Randy Koschnick wants to be a justice on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Problem is, incumbent Justice Shirley Abrahamson is in his way, so he's launched a campaign to unseat her in the elections this spring (the primary is Feb. 17 and the general election is April 7).
I've been having nasty flashbacks to the campaign between Michael Gableman and Louis Butler ever since I heard Koschnick was running. Were we in for another round of scurrilous attack ads placed by obnoxious interest groups like WMC? Would Koschnick start misstating case law and twisting the record of his opponent?
Pretty much yes. Call it a case of deja vu all over again - the only difference being the name of the players. Several of the more powerful conservative interest groups have curiously opted to sit out of this election cycle, including WMC, Club for Growth Wisconsin, and Coalition for America's Families.
Why? That's a damn good question, but their decision may be based on a combination of the massive amount of scrutiny and criticism WMC came in for last year, and perhaps a perceived lack of a real chance at winning. After all, they've already achieved getting one under-qualified conservative hack (Gableman) onto the bench, and two potentially easier-to-win seats will be coming up in the next few years as Justices Prosser and Roggensack come up for re-election.
But never fear! Several other right-wing interest groups have taken up the cause and are endorsing and campaigning for Koschnick. One of these noble citizen's groups is Wisconsin Right to Life, the same group currently backing efforts to stop a new abortion clinic in Madison. Another group that's backing Koschnick? The NRA Political Victory Fund. Yep.
It should be noted that Koschnick has also been speaking with the Wisconsin Family Council, run by the notoriously homophobic crusader Julaine Appling, one of the loudest proponents of the anti-gay marriage bill passed in Wisconsin in '06. Thanks to an open records request, it's possible to note that a call to the WFC was placed from Koschnick's desk phone back on Sept. 22 of '08. Whether or not the group will publicly endorse his run, it's certainly worth noting their interactions. I should add that the records request also revealed phone and email conversations, both from Koschnick's state offices, with Patti Chmielewski, the Jefferson County contact for WRTL.
I don't think there's much question as to what Koschnick's political affiliations are. And though the apparent use of his official phone and email to conduct conversations with interest groups now actively backing his campaign may or may not be legally suspect, this does serve to beg several important questions.
Would Koschnick really be an objective voice on the court, one that adhered to the actual law of the land and displayed thoughtful understanding and interpretation of its trickier aspects? I sincerely doubt that.
For further proof that that's not likely to be the case, the illustrious Illusory Tenant lays out Koschnick's shaky comprehension of the law here, and Super Id has a pretty good take on the issue, too.
What it all boils down to is this: Randy Koschnick appears to be nothing more than a partisan, far-right conservative hack with poor judgement and suspect interpretation of the law. I would say we need not worry about so weak a contender against the established and knowledgeable Abrahamson, but then again, Gableman did manage to win his bid - so it's important to get educated on the real issues here, spread the word, and decide what kind of person you'd rather have sitting on the bench of the highest court in the state: a political ideologue, or a proven and thoughtful judge.
P.S. Blogger informs me that this is my 500th post! Woo! Honestly, I'm not sure whether to be proud or mildly horrified...maybe both. :)
(EDIT: Changed the date of the WFC phone call - records were misinterpreted)