A conservative candidate for the spring Supreme Court election in Wisconsin has dismissed concerns about the fact that he has campaigned alongside a person who planned several “Stop the Steal” rallies, and who was on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol building during the January 6 attack on Congress, alongside a mob of loyalists to former President Donald Trump.
Dan Kelly is embroiled in a close race with his liberal counterpart, Judge Janet Protasiewicz, for a seat on the state’s highest court. Internal polling from a conservative lobbying group in the state finds that Protasiewicz is leading by a slim margin of two points against Kelly.
Kelly served a short term on the state Supreme Court when he was appointed in 2016 by then-Republican Gov. Scott Walker to fill a vacancy, but was subsequently removed by voters in an election in 2020.
This week, at a luncheon organized by the Dane County Bar Association, Kelly was asked about his connections to conservative activist Scott Presler, who has organized numerous “Stop the Steal” rallies advocating for the overturn of the 2020 presidential election results in order to keep Trump in office. He was also at the Capitol when the building was breached on January 6, 2021.
Presler endorsed Kelly in a video shared on the conservative candidate’s Twitter account. Kelly told reporters at the luncheon that he saw nothing wrong with the endorsement.
“I appreciate a great deal the work he is doing in Wisconsin, I think it is invaluable — going around the state of Wisconsin and talking about how important it is for people to exercise their power, their authority and decide who is going to sit on the Supreme Court,” Kelly said.
Notably, Wisconsin was one of the states where Presler and other “Stop the Steal” advocates sought to overturn the election results.
Kelly later claimed that he didn’t “ask people to sit for an examination before they help me.”
“There are people all over the state of Wisconsin that have all kinds of different beliefs and all kinds of different backgrounds who are doing their absolute level best to encourage the people of Wisconsin to come out to exercise their privilege and their power,” he said. “I don’t ask them what their backgrounds are. I’ll take their help any day of the week.”
When asked about Presler’s connection to the Capitol attack, Kelly pleaded ignorance, saying he “doesn’t know anything about January 6 or anything like that.”
Kelly’s comments are perhaps unsurprising, as he himself was involved in efforts to overturn the presidential election outcome in Wisconsin, where President Joe Biden won all 10 of the state’s Electoral College votes. Kelly was reportedly a central player in the December 2020 discussions among state GOP officials seeking to create a slate of fake electors, having “extensive conversations” with party insiders about how the plot could move forward.
Aside from his connections to people who sought to overturn the 2020 election, Kelly holds numerous extremist opinions that clash with the values of most Wisconsinites. He opposes marriage equality, writing in his application to Walker when he was under consideration to be appointed to the bench that same-sex marriages “rob the institution of marriage of any discernible meaning.” That opinion from Kelly came one year after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality was the law of the land.
In blog posts, Kelly has compared Social Security to “slavery,” blasting people who can’t save enough for retirement as deserving of any economic plight they may face. He has also appeared at campaign events alongside a pastor who advocated for the murder of abortion providers.
Kelly has tried to downplay his anti-abortion views throughout the campaign. His opponent, Protasiewicz, has been an outspoken supporter of reproductive rights, airing commercials in the state vowing to protect abortion access if elected to the Supreme Court.
The issue will undoubtedly come before the court sometime in the near future, as Gov. Tony Evers (D) has filed a lawsuit seeking to find an 1849 statute that bans almost all abortions in the state — which became law once again after the federal Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — unconstitutional.
Polling shows that most Wisconsinites would likely back the restoration of abortion rights in the state. According to a Marquette Law School poll from last fall, 55 percent of the state’s residents said they opposed the removal of abortion rights after Roe v. Wade was dismantled. Just 37 percent said they approved of the action by the federal Supreme Court that ultimately rescinded abortion access in the state.