Voters choice of Gableman must be respected
Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Apr 15, 2010; Section:Opinion; Page Number:8A
In the run-up to the spring election, local Democrats and some of their allies in the media took an opportunity to “tut-tut” the partisan turn one judicial race took. Republican State Representative Mark Gundrum challenged Judge Richard Congdon, a former chairman of the Waukesha County Democrats. Gundrum had the temerity to call himself a conservative, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth about partisanship in judicial races followed.
Never mind that Congdon certainly owed his appointment to the bench by a Democratic governor to Congdon’s past work for the Democratic Party. No, it was Gundrum who was being shamefully partisan, they said.
The voters saw through that, of course, and Gundrum crushed Congdon with 77 percent of the vote.
The last time the voters didn’t listen to their betters on a judicial race, the political left was not forgiving.
Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Michael Gabelman has been fighting for his legitimacy ever since the voters saw fit to elect him over the political left’s favorite Justice Louis Butler two years ago. The left has challenged him with an ethics complaint and numerous recusal motions in an effort to discredit the justice and ultimately force him from the bench.
Tomorrow, the court begins to consider an ethics complaint against Justice Gableman regarding a television ad that ran during the 2008 campaign. The ad said that Louis Butler, while he was a defense attorney, represented a client in a rape case. The ad said Butler found a “loophole” (playing off of Butler’s nickname “Loophole Louie”) and the rapist went on to rape another woman.
What the ad did not say was that Butler’s client still went to jail and served his term. It was only after time served that he was released into the public and chose to re-offend, all events quite independent of Butler providing a defense for his client.
Gableman’s campaign was correctly criticized for it at the time by both the left and the right. Even WTMJ’s Charlie Sykes said he had to throw a flag on his own team over that ad. I criticized the ad on my Web site and mentioned it in a column for The Freeman. The voters had plenty of opportunity to be aware of the ad’s flaws.
Now Gableman is facing an ethics complaint regarding the ad. His fellow justices will be his jury, and they could choose to do nothing, they could reprimand him or they could even remove him from office. At issue is whether the ad constituted a lie.
Unfortunately for Gableman’s accusers, the ad was factually correct, even as it left out details so as to lead the viewer to draw a different conclusion than what really happened.
But more importantly, the ad was debated well ahead of the election date. Bill Lueders in the Isthmus even went so far as to declare Gableman unfit to hold any public office because of that ad in a column that appeared before the election.
As I am well aware, sometimes the voters decide they’re not going to listen to the pundits and the critics. They decide that, despite whatever misgivings they might have about a candidate, they would prefer to give that candidate a chance over the incumbent, a known quantity that they do not wish would continue in office. When that happens, the will of the voters should be respected.
Nobody is alleging any conduct since Gableman took office that would disqualify him from continuing to serve. Nor have they found any new evidence that would require a re-examination of the 2008 judicial campaign between Gableman and Butler.
Meanwhile the political left has found a home for Butler on the federal bench where he’ll be immune from the judgment of his fellow citizens on his fitness to hold office.
Gableman’s constituents, the citizens of Wisconsin, had their opportunity to reject Gableman over this one television ad during the campaign two years ago. Having weighed the evidence, they chose Gableman over Butler.
In the absence of any new revelation, Gableman’s fellow justices owe him and the voters that elected him the respect that his office commands, won by fair election. They should honor that election and retain Justice Gableman.
(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)