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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

 10:14 PM 

Ziegler Wins Supreme Court Seat

Washington County Judge Annette Ziegler won an open spot on the state Supreme Court today in a decisive win that she says was a rejection of negative campaigning.

With 97 percent of the vote in, Ziegler is at 58 percent, while Madison attorney Linda Clifford is at 42 percent.

"Whoever thought a girl who swept floors in a hardware store could grow up to be Supreme Court justice?" Ziegler asked supporters during her victory speech in West Bend.

Clifford said she called Ziegler and congratulated her, wishing her the best of luck and success. She said she was disappointed in the results, and "I am especially disappointed in the fact that judicial elections in our state now are so overwhelmed by money that it appears that the candidate with unlimited funds will win."

Clifford and Ziegler have run a contentious race that easily became the most expensive Supreme Court campaign in state history. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign estimates at least $5 million has been spent on the race already, with the possibility the campaign could hit the $6 million mark once all the numbers are in. Outside groups have outspent the candidates to this point, pumping at least $3 million in the race, according to WDC.

The state's largest business group, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, accounted for about $2.2 million of that with a series of TV ads and robocalls promoting Ziegler and criticizing Clifford's lack of experience on the bench.

The race was also marked by allegations that Ziegler had sat on cases in her Washington County courtroom despite a conflict of interest because of her financial ties to the parties before her. The WDC filed a complaint with the state over the claims.

Ziegler, who often complained that Clifford ran the most negative race for the Supreme Court in state history, was perceived to be the conservative-leaning candidate in the race and garnered the support of many Republicans. Liberal-leaning groups and Dems, meanwhile, lined up behind Clifford.

Ziegler often pledged to be a strict constructionist if elected and hit on that theme again tonight in her victory speech.

"I'll work very hard to be a judge, not a legislator," she said.


-- By David Wise and Greg Bump

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