Here & Now' Highlights: Robert Spindell, Brian Michel, Daniel Kelly

Here's what guests on the Jan. 20, 2023 episode said about 2022 election turnout in Milwaukee, how "conversion therapy" is deemed harmful and running in the 2023 election for Wisconsin Supreme Court.

By Frederica Freyberg | Here & Now

January 23, 2023

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A split screen shows Frederica Freyberg and Robert Spindell in different locations.

Frederica Freyberg and Robert Spindell (Credit: PBS Wisconsin)

Wisconsin Elections Commissioner Robert Spindell is facing calls for his resignation after he wrote an email to fellow Republicans saying he was proud conservative election efforts in 2022 resulted in 37,000 fewer vote to be cast ballots in mostly Black and Hispanic areas of Milwaukee — Democratic state Senators have called for Spindell’s resignation. A legislative committee lifted the ban on “conversion therapy” for LGBTQ people — Brian Michel of Mental Health America of Wisconsin testified before the committee in opposition and described the harm of such practices, saying those who undergo it can be left feeling isolated and even suicidal. Four candidates are running in the Feb. 21 primary election for Wisconsin Supreme Court — in the first of four interviews with these candidates, former state Justice Daniel Kelly discussed running again as a conservative.


Robert Spindell
Commissioner, Wisconsin Elections Commission

  • A Republican appointee to the committee that sets state elections rules, Spindell is under fire from Democrats for a post-election email he sent out to fellow Republicans, which said, in part: “We can be especially proud of the City of Milwaukee (80.2% Dem Vote) casting 37,000 less votes than case in the 2018 election with the major reduction happening in the overwhelming Black and Hispanic areas.” One other commissioner and 10 of the 11 Democratic members of the state Senate called for Spindell to resign over what they call racist voter suppression. Spindell rejected being described as “incredibly racist.”
  • Spindell: “Really, the thing I was celebrating was the fact that finally, after all these years, that the Republican Party of Wisconsin and the RNC — the Republican National Committee — were finally recognize the importance of the Black vote, the Hispanic vote, and not just talk anymore, but they actually put the resources into their programs.”


Brian Michel
Chief Operating Officer, Mental Health America of Wisconsin

  • The state legislative committee on rulemaking lifted a state ban on providing what’s commonly called “conversion therapy” to try to change sexual orientation and gender identity. A state licensing board had adopted rules to ban it in 2020 Michels testified before the committee and opposed to lifting the ban against conversion therapy.
  • Michels: “Where a lot of the bad and adverse effects come is making a young person who’s still living in his thoughts feel more rejected and isolated — and we do know that those feelings can lead to increased rates of depression, suicide attempts, suicide ideation of young folks who are part of the LGBTQ community are already at higher risk of depression and self-harm. But when that is compared to those who feel highly rejected by their caregivers, by their families, that can result in nearly eight or nine times higher rate of attempting suicide, six times higher rate of depression, and about three-and-a-half more times likely of illegal drug use and HIV rates.”


Daniel Kelly
Candidate, Wisconsin Supreme Court

  • Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly was appointed by Republican Governor Scott Walker in 2016 and lost his re-election bid in 2020. Kelly is running again in 2023, and is promoting his candidacy as a constitutional conservative.
  • Kelly: “Constitutional conservatism is that commitment to the original public meaning of that document and faithfully following that in every single case that we decide. …So even in novel circumstances, we’re always going to go back to the text of the law, whether it’s the statute or it’s the Constitution — and we’re going to apply that meaning to resolve the case by. If we ever get in a position of importing our personal preferences or our personal politics, that’s poison to the work of the court that destroys the constitutional order. That’s why it’s so important to set that aside, set aside all those personal preferences and policies, and just decide cases based on the law.”
  • Here & Now senior political reporter Zac Schultz is conducting interviews with each of the four candidates running for Wisconsin Supreme Court leading up to the Feb. 21 primary. Two candidates will then advance to the April 4 general election, with the winner determining the ideological balance of the court.


Watch new episodes of Here & Now at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays.

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