MADISON (AP) — The field of candidates for Wisconsin Supreme Court will be narrowed from three to just two following Tuesday's primary election.
The nonpartisan race for the high court is the only statewide contest on the primary ballot. Justice Pat Roggensack is seeking a second 10-year term and is being challenged by Marquette University law professor Ed Fallone and Milwaukee consumer law attorney Vince Megna.
The two highest vote-getters will face each other in the April 2 election.
Turnout for the election was predicted to be less than 10 percent. A wintry blast of weather across the state, with cold temperatures and snow in the forecast, could also keep voter numbers down.
The polls opened at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.
Roggensack has based her campaign around her nearly 17 years' experience as a judge, including the past 10 on the Supreme Court. Neither of her two challengers has served as a judge, and Roggensack argues that makes her the best pick for the seat.
Roggensack has picked up endorsements from more than 100 judges, 50 county sheriffs and two dozen district attorneys.
Both Fallone and Megna argue that Roggensack is part of a dysfunctional Supreme Court that has suffered through high-profile altercations, including in 2011 when Justice Ann Walsh Bradley accused Justice David Prosser of choking her during an argument. Prosser denied the allegation and a special prosecutor who investigated the claim declined to bring charges.
Roggensack is generally viewed as part of the four-justice conservative majority on the court along with Prosser, Annette Ziegler and Michael Gableman.
Fallone and Megna said the court would function better, and its public image can be restored, by replacing Roggensack.
Fallone also said he brings valuable experience to the court given his expertise in constitutional and corporate law. Fallone has won the endorsements of a number of unions representing public workers and teachers, as well as the AFL-CIO.
Megna, a consumer law attorney who built his career on successfully suing auto manufacturers and dealers for selling faulty vehicles, tried to shake up the race by declaring himself to be a Democrat. He also took stands on issues expected to come before the court and encouraged the others to as well, though neither did.
Megna also stood by a series of outlandish satirical videos he made over the past year making fun of Gov. Scott Walker and other Republicans.
Chris Astrella, 32, who works as the town clerk in Blooming Grove, braved wind-blown snow to vote Tuesday morning in Sun Prairie. He said he went with Fallone.
He said Megna can help more people by litigating lemon law cases than becoming a justice but stressed that his vote was really anti-Roggensack. He said she's too closely aligned with Prosser, whose behavior has reduced the court to a national laughingstock. More importantly, Astrella said, he believes Roggensack is working to advance Republican Gov. Scott Walker's agenda.
"It's just so obvious," Astrella said. "Judges on all levels of government are supposed to be non-partisan."
David Rogman, 43, a retail manager who lives in Milwaukee, said he voted for Roggensack. He said he normally leans more conservative in his votes. He said the justices' behavior has been ridiculous, but he doesn't believe Roggensack has had anything to do with it and she's fair-minded.
"She'll do the rule of law and not try to legislate from the bench," he said.
Susan Slater, 69, who retired from working in a grant development office, voted for Fallone in Milwaukee because "he's the best candidate." Slater said she normally leans Democratic and she wanted a change after the infighting.
"I think they are all wacko," she said.
Judy Schendlinger, a nurse from Middleton, voted for Megna, saying the court needs someone who's familiar with business law.
"I think maybe (Megna) could be someone who could be a better voice for interpreting what the law is, or have new ideas," she said.
There are a number of other local elections on Tuesday's ballot.
In the Milwaukee area, five Republicans are running for an open spot in the state Assembly caused by the departure of Paul Farrow to the state Senate in December. There are no Democrats running for the Assembly seat, so the Republican who wins the primary will likely take the 98th District seat, barring an unforeseen write-in campaign.
The candidates in that race are Village of Pewaukee Police Chief Ed Baumann; construction project manager Todd Greenwald; Marquette University graduate student Matt Morzy; window cleaning business owner Adam Neylon; and Jeanne Tarantino, the former chief of staff to Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch.
Associated Press writers Todd Richmond in Sun Prairie, Kevin Wang in Middleton and Carrie Antlfinger in Milwaukee contributed to this report.
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