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Candidates state their positions for Brown County Circuit Court Judge Branch 4 race

Rachel Maes is challenging incumbent Kendall Kelley in his first contested race since 2003.
Published: Apr. 4, 2021 at 4:51 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Tuesday, April 6 is Election Day for several statewide seats and some local ones.

The Brown County race of Circuit Court Judge for Branch 4 is drawing attention after one candidate claims she’s been under attack for being transgender.

Judge Kendall Kelley was first appointed to the bench of branch 4 in 2002 and then won re-election the next year in his only contested race. He has an opponent this go-around with Rachel Maes who says she’s faced mounting personal attacks for her gender.

“Men could be judges, women could be judges and however people view my gender, it’s not up for debate. It’s not up for discussion. I am a qualified attorney,” Maes, who identifies as transgender, said.

Kelley said he doesn’t support the personal attacks against his opponent.

“Anything that harms the dignity of the office or the dignity of my opponent is just unacceptable and that’s unfortunate,” he said.

Kelley is asking voters for another six years to stay on the bench.

“It would be my hope that by continuing to focus on consequences for people and rehabilitation that the community will continue to improve. It’s sort of the age old issue,” Kelley said.

Maes is an assistant city attorney with Green Bay and said she can move the county forward.

“I think that I bring a different perspective. I think I bring a fresh pair of eyes to the bench and I think that I have the temperament to be an excellent judge,” Maes said.

A U.S. Navy veteran himself, Kelley helped start a veterans treatment court at his respective court. Maes, however, said that doesn’t go far enough in crime prevention and homelessness needs to get addressed, and suggested a homeless treatment court.

“[I] with others started the veterans treatment court, specifically to focus on the way in which veterans were affected both by their service and then also their treatment needs,” Kelley said.

Maes retorted, “Reducing the homeless population, getting them stable housing, does impact crimes that are affecting our convenience stores and retailers.”

The pandemic has created a backlog of cases, according to Kelley, due to the state supreme court creating Covid-19 restrictions. Nonetheless, it’s a caseload both candidates will have to face if elected.

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