The biggest pro-Kelly spender, Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s business lobby, has spent $3.4 million on his behalf so far. Nick Novak, a spokesman for the group, declined to comment on the group’s future plans. A Fair Courts America spokesman did not respond to messages on Tuesday. The flood of Protasiewicz ads have attacked Justice Kelly for his opposition to abortion rights, past statements attacking Social Security and his association with Republican attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, among other issues.
Mr. Kelly’s spokesman, Ben Voelkel, said Mr. Kelly was filming a television ad on Tuesday. He predicted the Kelly campaign and its allies would soon catch up with Judge Protasiewicz and Democrats in overall television spending, but at the same time suggested the millions of dollars spent of television time was wasted in a relatively low-turnout April election.
“We’re reaching out to voters in a lot of different ways,” Mr. Voelkel said. “They are spending millions of dollars for an election that’s not going to have a big turnout. We’ve taken a slightly different approach.”
Wisconsin’s municipal clerks began placing absentee ballots for the Supreme Court election in the mail this week, and in-person ballots can be cast starting next Tuesday. Private polling conducted by officials on both sides of the race shows Judge Protasiewicz with a lead over Justice Kelly in the mid-to-high single digits. Mr. Voelkel disputed that Justice Kelly was trailing but declined to reveal the campaign’s figures.
The court election is formally a nonpartisan contest, but there is little mystery about where the candidates stand politically. The bulk of Judge Protasiewicz’s campaign money has come from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, which can transfer unlimited amounts under state law. Justice Kelly has worked as a lawyer for the Republican National Committee, which hired him to focus on “election integrity” issues for the party during and after the 2020 election.
On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton endorsed Judge Protasiewicz. Justice Kelly was endorsed by President Donald J. Trump during the justice’s 2020 re-election campaign, which he lost.
In the last three weeks, the Protasiewicz campaign has spent $9.1 million on television advertising, and outside groups supporting her have spent $2.03 million, according to AdImpact, a media-tracking firm.