MILWAUKEE — Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton took a shot at state Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley in a speech to state Democrats on Saturday, saying Bradley’s past comments about contraception disqualify her from the state’s highest court.
Referring to a column published in 2006 in which Bradley said opponents to a proposal that would allow pharmacists to refuse to fill prescriptions including contraceptives because of their personal religious beliefs put “women’s convenience over pharmacists’ objections to being a party to murder.”
“She actually said — I had to read this three times,” Clinton said at the state Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s Founders Day dinner, “she actually has said birth control is morally abhorrent.”
Bradley, who is seeking re-election to the court after being appointed last October by Gov. Scott Walker, came under fire in March after the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now unearthed opinion columns she authored as a Marquette University student 24 years ago in which she called AIDS patients and homosexuals degenerates, compared abortion to the Holocaust and slavery, and wrote that an author legitimately suggested women play a role in date rape.
Bradley has repeatedly apologized for what she wrote about AIDS patients and homosexuals.
Clinton said she was joining others who were saying “no to discrimination, no to hate speech and no to Bradley.” She said there was “no place at all” on any court for Bradley’s “dangerous rhetoric.”
A spokesman for Bradley’s campaign tied the comments to Bradley’s opponent, state Appeals Court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg.
“Kloppenburg’s claims of independence have fallen flat with the voters. Now that multiple polls show her losing, she’s turned to one of the most partisan figures in the nation, Democrat Hillary Clinton, to carry on Kloppenberg’s personal attacks,” said campaign spokesman Luke Martz.
State Republican Party spokesman Pat Garrett also rejected Clinton’s remarks and tied them to Kloppenburg, referring to a recent Marquette Law School poll that showed Bradley with a slight lead over Kloppenburg.
Kloppenburg spokeswoman Melissa Mulliken declined to comment on Clinton’s remarks and denied asking the campaigns to make them.
Clinton’s comments came during a 32-minute speech in which she took aim at Walker and his signature legislation that all but eliminated collective bargaining rights for most public employees and his proposal in the last state budget to cut funding for higher education.
Opponent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders also addressed the crowd Saturday as part of the presidential candidates’ final push before Tuesday’s primary.
Sanders also told the crowd he would support unions who have experienced membership losses in Wisconsin after Walker’s collective bargaining measure and recently-passed right-to-work legislation.
“Gov. Walker thinks it’s a great idea to try to destroy the trade union movement. I think it’s a great idea to try to build a strong trade union movement,” said Sanders.
Sanders said if elected, he would push to pass legislation that would “make it easier for workers to negotiate contracts and to form a union.”
He also drew a contrast with Clinton, saying the Democratic Party’s future depended on young people and not establishment politics — referring to Clinton.
“For the Democratic Party to succeed, we need a vibrancy and we need an energy and we need a level of grassroots activism that we do not have at this moment,” Sanders said. “We need to bring in millions of young people who have never voted in their lives and I am proud that many of those young people are coming to our campaign.”
Sanders said the “same old establishment politics and establishment economics” could not solve the problems facing the country. “We need a movement of millions of people to stand up, fight back and demand a government that represents all of us,” he said.
Clinton and Sanders were two of a number of prominent Democrats speaking at Saturday’s dinner. Congresswoman Gwen Moore, former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, Ohio Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and state party chairwoman Martha Laning also addressed the crowd.
The dinner marks the last time Clinton and Sanders will appear on the same stage before Tuesday’s primary. A Marquette Law School poll released Wednesday showed Sanders narrowly leading Clinton in Wisconsin, 49 percent to 45 percent; that lead falls within the poll’s margin of error.
Clinton has been steadily losing ground to Sanders over the course of several Marquette polls over the past year. In November she led Sanders 50-41.
Sanders has the largest lead in the Madison region, but he also has a slight advantage in the Milwaukee region. Clinton has performed better in states with large minority populations.
Sanders scheduled a rally at UW-Madison’s Kohl Center for Sunday, which would be his third trip to Madison leading up to the primary. Clinton was in Madison on Monday, when she urged a crowd of invited guests to consider the future of the U.S. Supreme Court when choosing a presidential candidate.
Meanwhile, at rallies held on March 26 and on Wednesday, Sanders emphasized the gulf between himself and Clinton on support from special interests and their positions on free trade.
Both candidates made stops in Eau Claire on Saturday, and Sanders made another in Milwaukee ahead of the dinner.
Meanwhile, GOP candidates Donald Trump made stops in Racine, Wausau and Eau Claire. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz stopped in Ashwaubenon and Ohio Gov. John Kasich visited Racine, Janesville and Madison.