Associated Press Writer

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Washington County Judge Annette Ziegler and Madison attorney Linda Clifford were the top two vote-getters in a three-way field in Tuesday's primary election for state Supreme Court.

Ziegler and Clifford topped Madison lawyer Joseph Sommers and will advance to the April 3 general election.

Ziegler had 142,311 votes, or 57 percent, according to unofficial returns with 81 percent of precincts counted. Clifford had 65,961 votes, or 27 percent, and Sommers had 38,987 votes, or 16 percent.

"I am so proud to have the support of Wisconsin's citizens," Ziegler said. "I'm honored and humbled by tonight's results."

The winner of April's election earns a 10-year term to replace retiring Justice Jon Wilcox and could change the political leaning of the seven-member court.

The 70-year-old Wilcox is generally viewed as one of three conservatives on the court along with Justices Patience Roggensack and David Prosser.

The more liberal members are Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and Justices Ann Walsh Bradley and Louis Butler, with Justice Patrick Crooks seen as a swing vote.

Ziegler, 42, who was appointed to the Circuit Court bench in 1997 by Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson, said she is a "traditional" judge in her interpretations of the law.

"I try very much not to use the phrase conservative because of the association of the term with partisan politics," she said. "I'm a traditional jurist."

Previously, Ziegler was assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin and a private attorney.

Clifford, 58, is a member of the board of directors of the Godfrey & Kahn law firm in Madison. In 2003, she sponsored a fundraiser for Doyle and the next year she was one of nine finalists as picked by a Doyle selection committee for an opening on the high court that went to Butler.

Clifford describes herself as a political moderate.

Sommers, 45, anchored his candidacy around criticism of the current judicial structure and used a shoestring campaign to spread his message.

Clifford and Ziegler have said they expect it will take about $1 million each to run the campaigns they want. That spending alone, not counting spending by outside groups, would make the race the most expensive Supreme Court contest in state history.