‘I Don’t Think You Have to Worry About That With Me’: Dan Kelly Signals He’ll Advance Right-Wing Interests, if Elected

Wisconsin Supreme Court candidates Republican-backed Dan Kelly and Democratic-supported Janet Protasiewicz participate in a debate Tuesday, March 21, 2023, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

By Keya Vakil

March 29, 2023

In an interview on a right-wing radio show, Kelly reassured conservatives they wouldn’t have to worry about how he would vote on issues pertaining to labor unions, gun rights, school vouchers, and redistricting.

Dan Kelly not so subtly signaled this week that he would advance and protect right-wing priorities if elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. 

Kelly, who previously served as a justice on the Court before losing his reelection race in 2020, appeared on the Mark Belling Show on Tuesday, where he was interviewed by guest host David Clarke. 

Clarke, the former Milwaukee County Sheriff turned right-wing firebrand, asked Kelly whether he would side with conservatives on key issues. 

“Here’s what’s important to conservatives, and this is what they tell me, so this isn’t what’s important to David Clarke: Act 10, gun rights, including carry conceal licenses and constitutional carry which we don’t have yet, educational freedom through school choice, voter ID, and redistricting,” Clarke said. “I and others, we need to know that we can trust you on these.”

Clarke ended the question by reiterating that the issues were important to conservatives because they don’t want to “end up with another [Brian] Hagedorn,” referring to the sitting state Supreme Court judge who drew conservatives’ anger for refusing to the discard the votes of more than 200,000 voters in the 2020 election. 

Had Hagedorn sided with the court’s other three conservatives, such a ruling could have thrown the state to former President Donald Trump, creating a constitutional crisis. Kelly, who earned $120,000 advising national and state Republicans on another scheme to overturn the 2020 election results, strongly insinuated that he would be an ally to conservatives.

“I don’t think you have to worry about that with me, mostly, because I’ve already served for several years as one of your Supreme Court justices,” Kelly said.


Kelly’s comments drew a rebuke from the campaign of his opponent, Janet Protasiewicz.

“This is an act of pure desperation by Dan Kelly to reassure voters that he is just as extreme and corrupt as the last time he was on the court,” said Sam Roecker, a Protasiewicz campaign spokesperson. “When Dan Kelly tells a right-wing radio host not to worry about him, he’s making it clear to voters that he’ll uphold an extreme political agenda on the court, not follow the law and our Constitution.”

Kelly stopped short of specifying how he would vote on specific cases, but said that “the best indication of what you’ll do in the future is what you’ve done in the past”—and Kelly’s past is littered with evidence of his far-right leanings. 

An appointee of former Gov. Scott Walker, Kelly served on the court from 2016 to 2020. During his term on the court, he authored a ruling that the city of Madison could not prevent passengers from carrying guns on city buses. 

Kelly also previously served as the president of the Milwaukee Lawyer’s Chapter of the Federalist Society, the ultra-conservative legal organization that helped engineer the right-wing takeover of the US Supreme Court and the reversal of Roe v. Wade

He also defended Walker’s 2011 redistricting plan in court, even though it gerrymandered Wisconsin’s district maps in a way that was so obscene that it gave Republicans a near supermajority in the state legislature in a near-50/50 state. 

Old blog posts further suggest how Kelly could vote on certain issues if elected to the Court.

In a 2012 post, Kelly described abortion as “a policy that has as its primary purpose harming children” and accused pro-choice advocacy groups and Democrats of “normalizing the practice of abortion, making it culturally acceptable” in order to “preserve sexual libertinism.” He’s also provided legal advice to Wisconsin Right to Life, one of three anti-abortion rights groups to endorse his campaign.

In a 2013 post, Kelly compared Social Security to slavery and “involuntary servitude” and described those who receive Social Security and Medicare as “people who have chosen to retire without sufficient assets to support themselves.”

In a 2015 post made two days after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, he criticized same-sex marriage, claiming it would “rob the institution of marriage of any discernible meaning.”

Roecker did not mince words about how the Protasiewicz campaign thinks Kelly would vote, if elected.

“Dan Kelly is a partisan extremist who will uphold Wisconsin’s criminal abortion ban, threaten our democracy, and always uphold a right-wing agenda on the court,” Roecker said. 


  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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