Wisconsin Chief Appeals Court Judge Lisa Neubauer announced she has conceded to opponent Brian Hagedorn in the race for Wisconsin Supreme Court, bringing the closest judicial race in recent memory to its conclusion.
Neubauer’s announcement comes 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 about 1.2 million votes cast, or a margin of about 0.49 of one percentage point.
The tally was close enough for Neubauer to have requested a recount, which she had considered up until today, but her campaign would have had to pay for it.
Neubauer Wednesday morning said in a statement she had called Hagedorn to concede, and that she wishes him the best.
“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.”
The outcome of last Tuesday’s election means the Wisconsin Supreme Court will begin its new session later this year with a 5-2 conservative majority on the court. 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.
That outcome will likely extinguish the possibility of the expansion of voter rights, 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.
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.
This is two announcements in one, given that Neubauer decided not to run for the Supremes in 2020, leaving the next great liberal hope, whoever that is, to run against Kelly in 2020, when the spring general election will coincide with the presidential primary. The assumption is that Kelly will suffer from a large Democratic turnout, but one wonders if that will be the case if the Democratic nomination is a done deal by next April 7, since 31 states will already have had primaries or caucuses by then.
I figured a recount was inevitable, but the fact that there was little change from the canvasses that have been completed so far must have indicated to the Neubauer campaign that a recount was unlikely to change the outcome, only the margin.