MADISON — A concession speech Tuesday by former state Supreme Court Justice Dan Kelly quickly became an unhinged attack against winner Janet Protasiewicz, further sullying an exhausting and ugly campaign.

The vindictive speech is now making headlines across the country.

Protasiewicz defeated Kelly in the most expensive state Supreme Court race in U.S. history. The race was called quickly Tuesday evening by the Associated Press.

Although the race is officially non-partisan, candidates have been increasingly supported and promoted by Republicans or Democrats and have shared either left-leaning or right leaning views.

Shortly after the race was called, Kelly addressed supporters with typical unremarkable comments.

That’s until he paused to say he wished he could concede to a worthy opponent, but he did not have a worthy opponent.

Kelly, the conservative in the race, then went on for three minutes with a vindictive rant against liberal Protasiewicz.

“This was the most deeply deceitful, dishonorable, despicable campaign I have ever seen run for the courts,” he said. “It was truely beneath contempt.”

“I do not say this because of the rancid slanders launched against me,” Kelly continued. “My opponent is a serial liar. She demeaned the judiciary with her behavior.

“This is the future we have to look forward to in Wisconsin,” he said.

What Kelly failed to mention was that his campaign a willing participant mud-slinging of his own.

TV viewers had to endure a barrage of attack ads from both sides for weeks leading up to the campaign.

Although the most important issues facing the court will be Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban and district maps that favor Republicans, TV ads from both campaigns and outside groups focused on criminal cases that are decided at the circuit court level, not at the state Supreme Court.

Protasiewicz broke with norms and openly campaigned on preserving a woman’s right to choose.

Kelly took the traditional route of saying he’d simply follow the law, however his strong support by anti-abortion groups clearly signaled to voters his position.

He ended with, “I wish Wisconsin the best of luck, I think it’s going to need it,” then left the stage.

By Dan Plutchak

Dan Plutchak of Janesville is founder of the Janesville News Report