Wisconsin Chief Appeals Court Judge Lisa Neubauer on Wednesday conceded to opponent Brian Hagedorn in the race for Wisconsin Supreme Court, securing a major win for conservatives in the state.
Neubauer’s announcement came just over a week after a statewide election whose results — reminiscent of the razor-thin margins of the 2018 governor’s race and 2011 Supreme Court race that ended in a recount — showed the conservative-backed Hagedorn with a lead of about 6,000 votes out of roughly 1.2 million votes cast, or a margin of about half of one percentage point.
The tally was close enough for Neubauer to have requested a recount, which she had considered up until Wednesday, but her campaign would have had to pay for it.
In a statement Wednesday morning, Neubauer wished Hagedorn well.
“Judge Hagedorn said that he was running to get partisan influences out of our courts, and I hope he lives up to his promise,” Neubauer said. “Our courts are strongest when politics are set aside and we follow the law regardless of personal views.”
Hagedorn in a statement to supporters Wednesday morning heralded the win and said he is “deeply humbled and grateful” that Wisconsinites put trust in him.
“I said that partisan politics has no place at the Wisconsin Supreme Court, that I would protect the public, and that our job is to uphold the Constitution as written,” Hagedorn said. “I meant every word, and I will endeavor to fulfill these promises with all my ability.”
The outcome of the April 2 election means the Wisconsin Supreme Court will begin its new session later this year with a 5-2 conservative majority. It ensures that, even if the conservative-backed Justice Dan Kelly runs and loses his race next year, the court will remain dominated by conservatives through at least 2023. Kelly has said he expects to run.
That outcome will likely extinguish the possibility of the court rolling back changes to voting laws, revisiting controversial cases such as Act 10, the 2011 law that limited the power of public-sector unions, or tempering the Republican advantage over drawing the state’s political maps in 2021.
Liberals say conservative control could also mean the court will prioritize religious interests over public education, and would be unlikely to prioritize cases challenging discrimination.
Conservatives say the legal arguments behind the cases challenging controversial Republican laws have been weak, and that a conservative court will simply raise the bar for the caliber of arguments the court will entertain. They also say Hagedorn’s victory insulates conservatives from having hard-won legislative overhauls rolled back.
The election could be an early sign of trouble for Democrats in 2020. At the least, the outcome cements Wisconsin’s status as a battleground state likely to be flooded with campaign spending.
Neubauer’s campaign manager, Tyler Hendricks, said Neubauer does not plan to mount another bid for Supreme Court, though she does plan to seek re-election for her Appeals Court seat.
Ed Fallone, a liberal-backed Marquette University Law School professor who led an unsuccessful bid for the Wisconsin Supreme Court in 2013, recently announced he plans to mount another bid next year.