Spring election may alter state court majority

Get set for a brawl

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Who’s in and who’s out of the two statewide elections to be decided in April should start to come into clearer focus as candidates were able to circulate petitions to get on the ballot starting Saturday.

A state Supreme Court justice will be elected April 2 as will the secretary of the Department of Public Instruction, a position informally referred to as the state superintendent. Both races are nonpartisan, although candidates and their backers tend to organize along party lines.

The two incumbents — Justice Patience Roggensack and DPI Secretary Tony Evers — have announced they are seeking re-election.

In the Supreme Court race, lemon law attorney turned online liberal video satirist Vince Megna is running against Roggensack, who is part of the court’s four-member conservative majority. At least two others, Dane County Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi and Marquette University law school professor Ed Fallone, have said they are seriously considering getting into the race.

Neither Fallone nor Sumi said they had made up their minds as of this week.

Saturday was the first day candidates for the races could begin circulating nominating papers to get the required 2,000 signatures to be on the ballot. The papers are due by Jan. 2.

If more than two candidates run for either office, the two highest vote-getters in the Feb. 19 primary will advance to the April general election.

Megna said he had nearly 100 volunteers ready to circulate papers on his behalf and he’s already hitting the circuit to speak with groups about his candidacy.

Megna issued a statement Thursday saying that he doesn’t see Roggensack as his opponent in the race, but rather “David Koch and the other out-of-state big money forces that will flood Wisconsin.”

Koch and his brother Charles are billionaire energy executives who founded the Washington, D.C.-based group Americans for Prosperity, which spent tens of millions of dollars trying to defeat President Barack Obama and has also spent millions of dollars on advertising in Wisconsin elections.

Megna has become an outspoken critic of Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans, posting numerous satirical videos online making fun of their policies. Megna made a name for himself by representing consumers who bought faulty vehicles, known as lemons, against car manufacturers and dealers. Megna said he has sued General Motors more than 500 times without a single loss.

He said this Supreme Court race is critical because Roggensack is in the conservative majority.

“The out-of-state forces could lose their majority,” Megna said in a statement. “Therefore, the Koch Brothers will be working overtime on this one.”

Roggensack’s campaign adviser Brandon Scholz issued a statement in response, saying the race is about experience, honesty, integrity and fairness.

“This campaign is not and should not be a mud-wrestling tournament,” Scholz said.

Roggensack, first elected to a 10-year term in 2003, has been busy building bipartisan support for her re-election.

“I have shown that I understand the differing constitutional roles of Wisconsin’s three branches of government, and that I have fairly and impartially decided each case that has come before me, independent of outside pressures,” she said in a statement.

In the DPI race, Evers is likely to be challenged by Republican state Rep. Don Pridemore of Hartford. Pridemore formed a campaign committee last week and said he would announce his decision on whether he was getting in the race on Monday.

Pridemore is one of the more conservative members of the Legislature, advocating for carrying concealed weapons without a permit, toughening the state’s immigration laws, and opposing the federal health care law to the point where he once advocated for arresting federal officials who try to implement it.

Evers has worked closely with Walker on some initiatives during his first four years, but they’ve also differed on key measures.

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