Months after a small margin prevented her from unseating Supreme Court Justice David Prosser, Joanne Kloppenburg is running unopposed for the 4th District Court of Appeals.
Kloppenburg says she will campaign on the momentum from supporters of the narrowly decided Supreme Court election, which was not settled for months because of recounts and brought her statewide attention. She again campaigns on the message that judges should not be bound to a party or special interest.
She officially declared her candidacy in September, when current judge Margaret Vergeront announced she would not seek reelection. The 4th District includes 24 counties in southwest Wisconsin. It's a step above the Circuit Court system, but below the Supreme Court in authority.
But Kloppenburg says she does not view the Court of Appeals' seat as a consolation for the unsuccessful Supreme Court run. Rather she is focusing on momentum built during that race. One of the major tenets of Kloppenburg's campaign is working to eliminate the influence of campaign contributions in state elections, which she says played a role is distorting the characters of the candidates and the electoral process in the Supreme Court race.
"We have to figure out how to limit the infusions of money into electoral races, for judges and for other elections," Kloppenburg says. "Judicial elections ought to and can be different."
Kloppenburg is limiting contributions in this campaign to $1,000 for each individual or political action group, although state law allows for up to $2,500 donations for a Court of Appeals race.
Although running unopposed entails less intense campaigning than a statewide election for the high court, Kloppenburg says she still looks to engage with constituents and supporters across the 4th district at community events.
"It will be my obligation in the office to help restore the people's confidence that judiciary is fair and impartial and that the judgeship is not for sale," she says.
When asked if she would ever consider another run for Supreme Court justice, she says her focus is on winning the current election.
Melissa Mulliken, Kloppenburg's campaign manager, says although Kloppenburg has been traveling the district looking for support since September, she has only been officially unopposed since January 3.
The race is set to appear on the April 3 ballots. Kloppenburg would take office on Wednesday, August 1.