Ziegler: People want positive campaigns; I gave them a nasty one

Her election followed a bitter campaign, one she said she hoped people learned something from.

“I hope they learned that a positive campaign is a good one to run, especially in the judiciary,” Ziegler said. “Judges need to rise above that and I think the public expects that. -- New Supreme Court Justice Annette Ziegler, quoted by WisPolitics at her swearing-in.

An example of the sort of positive campaign she ran, courtesy of :

Judge Ziegler for Supreme Court Ad: "The Judge"

Announcer: The choice is as clear as night and day.  Linda Clifford's charges aren't true, there is no scandal.  Judge Ziegler's family has never benefited from any case.  The truth: Annette Ziegler has been an experienced judge for 10 years.  Linda Clifford?  Not one day as a judge.  Judge Ziegler, a former prosecutor, is endorsed by a majority of sheriffs and district attorneys.  Linda Clifford has never been a criminal prosecutor.  We need a judge on the Supreme Court, not a politician slinging mud.  

Night and Day

Ziegler has tried to counter the conflict-of-interest accusations with an ad depicting Clifford as a menacing creature who emerges only when the moon is full, interspersed with sunny shots of herself looking judicial. The first black-and-white image of Clifford superimposed on a lunar background labels her "Linda Clifford, Immigration Lawyer." That's just one of the six areas of specialty that Clifford's firm  for her – others include media, energy and business litigation – but it's the one that might be expected to generate the most controversy in the current political climate.

"Linda Clifford's charges aren't true," the narrator intones. "There is no scandal."

The ad doesn't specify which charges aren't true, but presumably they are the claims that Ziegler ruled on cases involving the bank on whose board of directors her husband serves, or those involving companies in which she held stock. But those matters weren't first raised by Clifford, they were raised by the Wisconsin State Journal.  Ziegler has never denied ruling on those cases. As to whether it amounts to a "scandal," that's a label that comes pretty cheap these days, and its use in connection with Ziegler's apparent failure to follow the state's judicial rules would seem to be justified. We can't say if it's true that "Ziegler's family has never benefited from any case" – there's no evidence the Zieglers received any financial windfall. The investigation by the Wisconsin Judicial Commission may clear that up, albeit after the election. 

Over another terrible black-and-white image of Clifford are the words, "Linda Clifford, not one day as a judge," which has been a frequent refrain in Ziegler's campaign. That's true, but the contrast in experience isn't so stark as that might imply. The nitty-gritty reality of the civil and criminal trials that a county judge handles is very different from the lofty realm of the Supreme Court,  which deals with broader constitutional issues.

Ziegler portrays her opponent darkly as "Linda Clifford, mud-slinging politician." We think there's plenty of blame to go around for the nasty tone of this race.


August 2, 2007 - 5:56pm