Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Dan Kelly's failure to complete survey on democracy deeply troubling

·3 min read

Editor's Note: We invited Dan Kelly’s campaign to respond to two points in this op-ed: Why he didn’t respond to the group’s judicial survey and how his legal work for the Republican Party could exert a partisan influence on the court. Read his response here.

The strength and stability of democracy in America is what makes our country the best place to do business. Two years ago, we formed the Wisconsin Business Leaders for Democracy because we firmly believe that Wisconsin must have a vibrant democracy that upholds freedoms for all citizens for us to move our economy forward.

Over the past two years, our group has worked to express support for frontline election workers and administrators around the state, promote civic engagement across the business community, and ask the candidates for governor to pledge their support of democratic principles.

More:Business leaders questionnaire for Wisconsin Supreme Court race more appropriate for legislative candidates

Today, we focus our attention on the Wisconsin Supreme Court election taking place this April.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court is an elected body that exists to defend our freedoms under our state laws and state constitution. While the court should be non-partisan, we have seen increasing partisanship on the bench in recent years, with justices putting their own ideologies ahead of the rule of law. Notably, over half of the court’s decisions in the 2021-2022 session were split by a 4-3 vote along party lines.

More:The fight for democracy in Wisconsin isn't partisan. In fact, it is good for business.

The winner of the April election will serve a 10-year term and will determine the balance of the court for several years to come. Many of the freedoms we enjoy as Wisconsinites will come before the Wisconsin Supreme Court in the next few years, such as access to reproductive healthcare, our freedom to participate in the democratic process, and ruling on the fairness of current or future district maps.

Perhaps most critically, the new court will hear all cases leading up to and after the 2024 presidential election, during which time the court could be asked to rule on state electors, decide on challenges to the voting process and even adjudicate the election results.

The stakes could not be higher. As a non-partisan group of business leaders from both political parties, we believe it is in the best interests of all Wisconsinites to elect justices who will uphold our freedoms and support the principles of democracy on which our country was founded.

Before the February primary, we asked every candidate for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, regardless of party affiliation, to respond to a five-question letter, in hopes of gaining insight into their views on matters important to democracy that have appeared and will continue to appear before the court.

Of the two remaining candidates, Judge Janet Protasiewicz responded in full, with a thoughtful articulation of her views and judicial philosophy. She wrote of her dismay that the 2020 election result was upheld by only a 4-3 vote of the court, emphasizing that “this type of extreme partisanship is one of the reasons why I decided to run for Wisconsin Supreme Court; we need to return fairness and common sense to this body.”

In stark contrast, former Justice Dan Kelly did not respond or acknowledge our inquiry after several requests. Kelly’s refusal to engage in a civil dialogue on basic questions of democracy and election law is troubling at best, and disqualifying at worst. Combined with recent revelations that he received six-figure payments for consulting for the Republican National Committee, we can only conclude that a vote for Kelly would send this court into a partisan tailspin.

We are encouraged by Protasiewicz’s response in support of democracy and invite you to read her response in its entirety at www.wibusinessfordemocracy.org.

This election is too important to vote simply on party lines and ignore where we have been the past few years. We encourage every voter to consider carefully the gravity of the issues that will most certainly come before this court. Our freedoms and economic prospects for the next decade hang in the balance.

We encourage all to vote for democracy and move Wisconsin forward.

Anoop Prakash, John Florsheim, and Sachin Shivaram, are members of the Wisconsin Business Leaders for Democracy. Prakash is a division president at REV Group. Prior to REV, Anoop held leadership roles in business and government, including in the administration of President George W. Bush. He is a former Marine Corps officer, and serves on the board of the Hunger Task Force. John Florsheim, a long time resident of Wisconsin, is president of Weyco Group in Milwaukee, a distributor and marketer of footwear brands with over 250 employees located in Glendale. Sachin Shivaram is CEO of Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry, a 115-year-old family-owned manufacturing company in Manitowoc. He is active in various community organizations, including the New North and Greater Green Bay Community Foundation. He is a trustee at Lawrence University and was also elected as a town supervisor in Ledgeview.

More:Supreme court candidates Janet Protasiewicz and Daniel Kelly on four topics

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Business leaders group troubled by court hopeful's refusal to take democracy survey.