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Dan Kelly Won’t Commit to Endorsing Jennifer Dorow if She Wins Supreme Court Primary

In contrast, Jennifer Dorow said she would endorse Kelly if he makes it through the primary.

Former Justice Dan Kelly, who is running for state Supreme court, said Tuesday night that he won’t commit to endorsing Judge Jennifer Dorow if she wins the primary for Supreme Court in three weeks.

Voters will choose between Kelly and Dorow, and two liberal judges Everett Mitchell and Janet Protasiewicz in the primary on Feb. 21. The top two vote-getters will then face off in April.

“Before I endorse, I need to see proof of what a person means when they say they are a judicial conservative,” Kelly said at a judicial forum hosted by the Republican Women in Greater Milwaukee. “I need to see it in writing, I need to see it in speeches, I need to see it in opinions, I need to see it somewhere. Because I am not going to endorse anymore unless there is that proof.”

Kelly said his endorsement of Justice Brian Hagedorn has him taking such a strict stand now.

“I took a risk,” Kelly added. “I endorsed him, I campaigned for him, and I helped him get on the Supreme Court. And when he came, it turned out he really wasn’t [a judicial conservative.]”

The comments came during a forum for the conservative Supreme Court candidates, sponsored by the Republican Women in Greater Milwaukee in Greendale, moderated by WISN 1130 host Dan O’Donnell.

Hagedorn has become the swing vote on the court and has ruled with the court’s liberal members several times.

In contrast, Jennifer Dorow said she would endorse Kelly if he makes it through the primary saying, “I will answer that question directly, if Dan comes through the primary, he will have my support.”

Dorow said other conservatives sought her endorsement.

“My background and my experience, apparently, was good enough for each of them to ask for my endorsement at one point. I didn’t always give it, but I was asked,” Dorow said. “And now, apparently, it’s not good enough to get the endorsement back.”

Kelly served four years on the Wisconsin Supreme Court before being defeated in 2020.

Dorow has spent her career as a prosecutor and a judge. She most famously presided over the Waukesha Christmas Parade killer’s trial.

Jennifer Dorow is a chief judge who was appointed to the Waukesha County bench by Walker and has been elected there twice. She was a 2004 Presidential Election Day Volunteer Lawyer with the State Republican Party, a Republican Party of Waukesha member, and a Republican Women of Waukesha County member.

She told Walker in writing to get the appointment, “I hold strong conservative values that will guide me as a judge and ensure that all litigants are treated fairly under the law. I do not believe in legislating from the bench, and subscribe to the principle of judicial restraint.” She and her husband, a former Waukesha police officer, have been involved in Republican campaigns behind the scenes.

“I am running as a judicial conservative to carry on the legacy of a judicial giant and someone I respect and admire, and that’s Justice Patience Roggensack,” Dorow said when she announced. Dorow and Kelly are running for the seat that Roggensack, a conservative, is vacating.

Kelly said voters can judge him based on his years of rulings as a judge and Supreme Court justice.

Dorow said her focus is not on splitting the Republican or conservative base, and not allowing the Supreme Court to flip to a liberal majority.

“I’m not going to take a chance to take somebody out, so the Left can win this election,” Dorow added. “We need to win this.”

Kelly brushed off that criticism.

“My commitment today is the same as it’s been my entire career, and always will be. I will promote judicial conservatism in every way that I can.”

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