FILE - In this March 15, 2019 file photo, Wisconsin
Supreme Court candidate Brian Hagedorn speaks during
a debate with opponent Lisa Neubauer at the
Wisconsin State Bar Center in Madison, Wis. Neubauer
conceded Wednesday to Brian Hagedorn.
MADISON — The liberal
candidate's concession Wednesday in Wisconsin's Supreme
Court race gave Republicans a boost of confidence
following a string of losses heading into the 2020
The closely watched court
race was an early measure of the mood in the battleground
state, although its predictive value is limited. Past
Supreme Court contests have not always been accurate
previews of what will happen in fall elections with larger
At the very least, the
narrow victory by conservative candidate Brian Hagedorn
over his liberal opponent Lisa Neubauer showed once again
that the margin for either side in Wisconsin is
razor-thin. Neubauer conceded to Hagedorn eight days after
the election, with his lead at about half a percentage
Hagedorn won by about 6,000
votes. County canvassing of the vote was ongoing, but
Neubauer conceded after the majority of counties were done
and the totals moved less than 200 votes.
The Supreme Court race is
just the latest in a series of tight elections in
Wisconsin, reinforcing its status as a battleground state
heading into 2020 and part of a "blue wall"
including Michigan and Pennsylvania that Democrats are
trying to build to beat President Donald Trump.
Other than Barack Obama's
two wins, the past three presidential elections in
Wisconsin have been decided by just a few thousand votes.
Trump carried Wisconsin by less than 1 percentage point,
or about 23,000 votes, in 2016. In 2000 and 2004, the
Democratic nominees won by about 5,700 votes and 11,000
In 2018, Republican Gov.
Scott Walker lost by just over 1 point to Democrat Tony
Evers. The Democratic attorney general candidate, Josh
Kaul, also won by less than a point.
While Republicans were
excited by Hagedorn's win, past Supreme Court races
haven't always been accurate indicators of future
Last year, the liberal
Supreme Court candidate cruised to victory in April,
foreshadowing more narrow Democratic victories in the
midterm elections. However, in 2007 and 2008 conservative
candidates won Supreme Court races, victories that came in
between huge Democratic wins in the fall of 2006 and the
2008 presidential election.
Hagedorn's win seems to fit
that model, coming after Republicans lost every statewide
race in 2018.
Turnout is another factor
that limits the predictive quality of Wisconsin Supreme
Nearly 27 percent turned
out to vote last week, which is above the average of
around 20 percent for most spring elections. Still, that's
less than half of what turnout has historically been for
presidential elections. It was 66 percent in 2016 and that
was the lowest turnout for a presidential election in 20
Democrats and Republicans
poured money into the officially nonpartisan race, with
television ads at the end comparing the attacks against
the conservative candidate to what was lodged against U.S.
Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Neubauer attributed her
defeat to more than $1.2 million in outside money that
came into the race from Republicans to attack her. She
also benefited from more than $1 million in outside
spending, including about $350,000 from a group run by
former Democratic U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.
"I hope future races
see less influence from outside special interests,"
Neubauer said. "(Hagedorn) said that he was running
to get partisan influences out of our courts, and I hope
he lives up to his promise."
Hagedorn, in a message to
supporters Wednesday, said he "meant every word"
when he said during the campaign that partisan politics
has no place in the Supreme Court. He also thanked
supporters for their hard work and prayers.
"Together, we made
history," Hagedorn said.
In a nod to the national
significance of the race, Trump tweeted congratulations to
Hagedorn, calling it a "big surprise win" in a
"very important Supreme Court seat."
increases the conservative majority on Wisconsin's Supreme
Court to 5-2. A liberal win would have given them a chance
to take the majority next year. Now conservatives will
have it until at least 2023.
with Wisconsin governor in appointment fight
MADISON — A Wisconsin
appeals court sided with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers on
Tuesday, ruling that he had the authority to withdraw
appointments made by then-Gov. Scott Walker and approved
by Republicans during a lame-duck legislative session.
The state's 3rd District
Court of Appeals declined to reinstate the 15 appointees
as Republicans wanted. The court said Evers' rescinding of
the appointments was not invalidated by a later court
ruling that put on hold the decision that allowed him to
take the action.
Republican Senate Majority
Leader Scott Fitzgerald promised an immediate appeal to
the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which is controlled 4-3 by
"As the governor has
repeatedly said, he acted properly and within the law to
withdraw those improper appointments and make his own
valid appointments," Evers' spokeswoman Melissa
Baldauff said in reaction to the ruling.
Hours before the ruling
came out, Fitzgerald said that Republicans were
"pretty wild" with anger over Evers' decision to
revoke the appointments and may not vote on confirming his
Cabinet secretaries while the court battle continues.
The position by the
Senate's top Republican highlighted the deep divide
between Republicans who control the Legislature and the
newly elected governor. The Senate has not acted to
confirm any of Evers' Cabinet picks while courts settle
legal issues stemming from a lame-duck session in which
Republicans pushed through several measures weakening the
powers of Evers and Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul.
"I think some of those
Cabinet members are going to be in trouble,"
Fitzgerald said, declining to name those who may be in
greater jeopardy than others.
Evers said he did not see
Fitzgerald's comments as retribution over the lame-duck
legal fight, but rather "huffing and puffing."
"This will be resolved
at some point in time," Evers told reporters.
"Whether it's retribution or not, it's not going to
work. First of all, the work of the state has to go on
whether it's retribution or not."
Evers' Cabinet secretaries
are working while their confirmations by the Senate are
pending. If they are rejected, they would have to quit
The fight goes back to the
lame-duck session Republicans called for December, after
Evers had defeated Walker but before he took office.
Republicans approved 82 Walker appointments, in addition
to passing a number of power-stripping laws.
Evers rescinded all of
those appointments last month after a court invalidated
actions during the lame-duck session as unconstitutional.
He re-appointed all but 15 of them. Days later, an appeals
court put that ruling on hold, creating more confusion
about the status of the 15 people Evers did not reappoint.
Evers argues the posts are
vacant while Republicans say they should be allowed to
return to work.
The 3rd District Court of
Appeals on Tuesday said Evers was valid in voiding the
appointments, noting that the order granting a stay
"does not explicitly direct the governor to allow
them to continue in their positions."
However, it said if a court
ultimately rules the original appointments were
constitutional, Evers' withdrawal of them could be voided.
Those who were not
reappointed include Public Service Commissioner Ellen
Nowak and University of Wisconsin Regent Scott Beightol.
The Evers' administration denied Nowak access to her
building when she tried to return to work. The Regents
took a different approach, allowing Beightol and student
Regent Torrey Tiedeman to attend the board's meeting last
Fitzgerald said Tuesday
that some senators were ready to reject some of Evers
Cabinet appointments in reaction to his decision to
rescind the appointments.
"All I can tell you is
people are upset," Fitzgerald said.
particularly angry with Nowak being denied entrance to the
PSC building, he said. She is former secretary of the
Department of Administration and well-known to Republican
lawmakers, many of whom are personal friends with her,
He said that Nowak was
given the "bum's rush."
Fitzgerald spoke to
reporters in his office after Democratic Senate Minority
Leader Jennifer Shilling accused Republicans of not taking
action on Evers' Cabinet picks as payback over the
lawsuits related to the lame-duck session.
adjourned the Senate session after Shilling spoke, denying
other senators the customary time to speak about whatever
topic they wish.
Neubauer concedes in
Wisconsin Supreme Court race
MADISON, Wis. — The liberal candidate in
Wisconsin's Supreme Court race conceded Wednesday,
deciding against a recount eight days after the election
showed her conservative opponent ahead by 6,000 votes in
a race seen as an early measure of a key battleground in
the 2020 presidential campaign.
Lisa Neubauer's concession to Brian Hagedorn means the
conservative majority on the court will increase from
4-3 to 5-2 when he takes the seat in August.
Conservatives will hold control until at least 2023,
denying liberals a change to take the majority in next
The Hagedorn win also gives Republicans a boost of
confidence heading into the 2020 presidential election
year, with his victory coming after a string of stinging
losses last year.
Republicans and Democrats alike pointed to the thin
margin as a sign of how hotly contested Wisconsin will
be in 2020. The tight race came after Republican Scott
Walker lost the governor's race by just over a point in
2018 and President Donald Trump carried Wisconsin by
just under a point in 2016.
Liberals were optimistic they could win the seat,
especially after a Democratic-backed candidate won in
2018 and Democrats swept statewide elections in
November, most notably ousting Walker.
Neubauer got out to an early fundraising lead and
appeared to have the momentum, until a surge of more
than $1 million from Republican groups poured into the
state in the final week of the race making the argument
that Hagedorn was being unfairly criticized for his
President Donald Trump tweeted congratulations to
Hagedorn, calling it a "big surprise win" in a "very
important Supreme Court seat."
Neubauer said in a Wednesday statement that the late
burst of outside money against her was the
difference-maker in the race. She also benefited from
more than $1 million in outside spending.
"I hope future races see less influence from outside
special interests," Neubauer said. "He said that he was
running to get partisan influences out of our courts,
and I hope he lives up to his promise."
Neubauer called Hagedorn on Wednesday morning to concede
and wish him good luck. Canvassing from the majority of
Wisconsin's counties showed a change of less than 200
votes in the total, both campaigns said.
The race was the closest for Wisconsin Supreme Court
since 2011, when Justice David Prosser won by just over
7,000 votes, or four-tenths of a point.
Unofficial results showed Neubauer trailing by just
under half a percentage point. That is within the
1-point margin for a recount, but Neubauer would have
had to pay for it because it wasn't within the quarter
of a point margin to make it free.
Hagedorn, 41, is a former member of the Kenosha County
Republican Party and served as a law clerk for state
Supreme Court Justice Michael Gableman, whose victory in
2008 gave conservatives control of the court. Hagedorn
served as an assistant attorney general, worked in
private practice and was Walker's chief legal counsel
for nearly five years. Walker appointed him to the state
appeals court in 2015 and Hagedorn won election two
Hagedorn was endorsed by the National Rifle Association
and Wisconsin Right to Life.
Hagedorn will serve a 10-year term and replace retiring
liberal Justice Shirley Abrahamson, who is battling
cancer. A former chief justice, the 85-year-old
Abrahamson is the longest-serving member of the court,
now in her 43rd year.