A candidate for Wisconsin Supreme Court is bringing partisan issues to the forefront of the nonpartisan race.
In an unusual move for judicial campaigns, Madison attorney Tim Burns told Sauk County Democrats on Thursday that if he is elected to the highest state court, he would use his influence to stand up for progressive ideals. Burns said he would work to ensure Wisconsin citizens have access to opportunities for themselves and their children.
“I am running because in the span of my adulthood, equal opportunity for the children of people who struggled like my parents has disappeared in this country,” he said. “It has been replaced by a system in which almost all of the new income and wealth goes to the top 1 percent, and everyone else is left working longer and harder for less and less.”
Burns made the comments while speaking during the Democratic Party of Sauk County’s January meeting at the Baraboo Civic Center. Burns hopes his strategy of “utter candor” will put him ahead of his opponents in the Feb. 20 primary. He faces Michael Screnock, a conservative Sauk County Circuit Court judge, and Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Rebecca Dallet, a political moderate.
The two candidates who receive the most votes in the primary will square off in the April 3 general election. They are running to replace Justice Michael Gableman, who is part of a 5-2 conservative majority on the court and opted not to run for a second 10-year term.
While Wisconsin Supreme Court races are officially nonpartisan, Burns said voters deserve to know where judges stand on political issues. The unusual approach has earned him endorsements from U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Black Earth, Our Wisconsin Revolution and a host of other liberal groups, politicians, judges and lawyers.
“I believe that gerrymandering and photo ID are great dangers to our democracy,” Burns said, outlining his progressive agenda. “I believe in strong workers unions, and I believe that legislation and government actions that attack unions hurt all of us.”
He went on to say that he believes the government has an important role to play in protecting the environment and should make sure small farmers and business owners have an equal playing field against foreign corporations. “The government has absolutely no role to play in our bedrooms or our reproductive decisions,” he added.
Members of the Sauk County Democrats asked Burns how he thought his liberal ideals would be received by rural Wisconsin voters who are more likely to vote conservative. Burns said he hopes his practice of sincerity and candor will resonate with the electorate.
“I think that when you’re candid and sincere with people and stand up for what you believe, that’s the time people become believers too,” he said. “That’s what this campaign has been about – absolute candor with people to the full extent.”