The two candidates running for the Circuit Court seat to be vacated by retiring Judge Stephen Simanek clearly have a difference of opinion about their value.
Atty. Georgia Herrera thinks highly of them. The more the merrier, it appears. She sent out five press releases this weekend, touting endorsements of her candidacy: from the Racine County Deputy Sheriffs Protective Association, the Wisconsin Troopers Association, Racine Police Chief Kurt Whalen and acting Burlington Police Chief Mark Anderson (and one summarizing them all).
The quote from Deputy Chad Schulman, president of the Sheriff's Protective Association was typical: "The deputies worked closely with Georgia during her eleven years as a criminal prosecutor in Racine County. Her law enforcement experience and good judgment are needed on the bench. She’ll work hard to keep our streets safe."
Herrera reinforced the message: “These endorsements come from working law enforcement professionals who work every day to protect the public. They know my work as criminal prosecutor and more recently as Court Commissioner. They know first-hand my dedication to hard work and safe communities,” Herrera said.
On her website, she lists the names of no fewer than 89 law enforcement officers as endorsers or supporters: police chiefs, judges, officers -- including 53 members of the Racine Police Department (as well as about 200 citizen supporters). Of course, sometimes endorsement can backfire; six out of 10 (admittedly anonymous) comments appended to our story about a pair of Herrera's earlier endorsers -- by Racine County District Atty. Micheal Nieskes and Racine County Sheriff Robert Carlson -- called Nieskes' support the kiss of death.
Meanwhile, Herrera's opponent, Atty. Gene Gasiorkiewicz, is taking a different approach. In a story in the Journal Times on Feb. 12 on the subject, Herrera is quoted as saying those two endorsements show that Nieskes and Carlson "have strong confidence that I can do what the community wants in terms of keeping streets safe and making sure that criminals are made responsible for their actions." Gasiorkiewicz is quoted in that story saying, "My whole campaign is about judicial neutrality. I am not seeking political endorsements. I want to run an apolitical campaign. ... I am trying to make this a nonpolitical situation. I think that's what the people deserve and what the position ought to be."
After we received Herrera's press releases this weekend, we asked Gasiorkiewicz -- who also is a former prosecutor and says he has "fine relationships with many law enforcement officers throughout the county."-- to elaborate on the endorsement issue. Here's a portion of what he sent us:
"I would like to directly talk about the issues regarding the endorsements my opponent received from some police unions, members of the law enforcement profession and some of her former colleagues in the Office of the Racine County District Attorney. It cannot be emphasized enough that those endorsements were made without the endorsing parties even bothering to ask me about my experience and positions on the issues. The fact that I was allowed no input demonstrates those endorsements were not based upon a thorough comparison of the experience and positions of the candidates.Gasiorkiewicz lists no "endorsements" as such on his website, only 10 "testimonials" from state attorneys.
"The judicial selection process is non-partisan. That means the merits of the candidates should not be viewed through a political lens. The most important foundation of our legal system is judicial independence. Injecting partisan politics into the judicial selection process undermines the integrity of the judiciary. There have been a number of Wisconsin judicial contests in the recent past where individuals and groups with special interests have tried to influence the outcome, often through mechanisms that involved distorting the record of the candidate they opposed. I find that practice abhorrent and it will not be part of my campaign. The people of Racine County deserve a neutral, detached and independent judge to hear any case brought before the court.
"The statute of justice is blind folded to signify that justice is to be blind -- all persons are equal in the eyes of the law. A police officer's son is to receive the same justice as anyone else. The selection of judges also works best when the voter compares candidates not based merely on their name or what political connections they have fostered. The voter should weigh the candidates in much the same way as the statute of justice signifies. Candidates should be compared not based on their name or their political connections, but instead the voter should determine whom to vote for based on weighing the relative experience and qualifications of the candidates... look beyond the politics that have become a part of this race and not let special interest groups determine who receives their vote."
Do endorsements mean "a great deal... about qualified, respected individuals in the community showing support for a proven candidate," or are they "like bananas -- you can buy them by the bunch," as opposing commenters argued on the JT's blog?
We'll find out on April 6.