In a little more than a week, Wisconsin voters will head to the polls to make a decision in a Supreme Court race with implications that arguably won’t be felt for another year.
Depending on the outcome of the April 2 election, the court’s 4-3 conservative majority could be at risk in 2020 of being toppled for the first time in more than a decade.
If the liberal-backed Lisa Neubauer is elected over conservative-supported Brian Hagedorn to replace retiring liberal-backed Justice Shirley Abrahamson for a 10-year term on the court, liberals would have to only defeat the conservative-backed Justice Daniel Kelly, whose seat is up next year, to take control of the court.
The 2020 race is so consequential that Republicans in December briefly tried to move Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential primary, set to occur at the same time as the Supreme Court election, to help Kelly win his race.
According to the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, this year’s Supreme Court race has seen about $1.3 million in outside spending by special interest groups, benefiting Neubauer by a 14 to 1 ratio.
Despite the heavy politics surrounding this year’s Supreme Court contest, both Hagedorn and Neubauer have underscored their commitment to impartiality on the campaign trail, although both have political connections.
Hagedorn is largely supported by Republicans and served as former Gov. Scott Walker’s chief legal counsel, where he had a role in drafting Act 10, the controversial 2011 law that curbed the power of public sector labor unions.
Hagedorn also has faced criticism for his controversial views against gay marriage.
He has experience as an attorney in private practice, for Walker, and as an appellate court judge, where he has served since 2015.
Neubauer is married to the former chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, and has donated to Democrats, including former Gov. Jim Doyle. Her daughter serves as a Democratic state representative.
Neubauer’s experience includes about two decades in private practice, where she served as a litigation attorney and partner at Foley & Lardner. She was also a law clerk for Barbara Crabb, then-chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.
Neubauer has served as an appeals court judge for about 10 years and was appointed to serve as chief judge of that court in 2015. She was reappointed in 2018.