04/14/2019

Why The Wisconsin Supreme Court Win Is A Big Deal

Matt Batzel, RealClearPolitics

It is now official: Conservative Judge Brian Hagedorn has defeated liberal Judge Lisa Neubauer (pictured) in Wisconsin’s Supreme Court election. Neubauer conceded on Wednesday in a very close race, where Hagedorn won by 6,000 votes despite being the underdog. This result is a significant reversal from 2018 when the conservative Judge Michael Screnock lost by 12% to the liberal (now Justice) Rebecca Dallet. More importantly, this election was a flip from blue to red. The state Supreme Court result not only has significant consequences for policy in Wisconsin, but it is an important signifier heading into 2020.

How did conservatives swing races by 12.5% in just over a year? It starts with executing the basics. In some ways it was similar to the University of Virginia winning the national championship a year after being the first No. 1 seed to lose in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. They focused on doing the fundamentals and got a huge change in outcome in one short year.

Judge Hagedorn executed his campaign plan, delivered his message to the voters and withstood withering attacks from the left and the media. The left attacked him for starting a Christian school and for calling Planned Parenthood a “wicked organization.” Planned Parenthood went on to spend over $120,000 to try to defeat him. As a result, business groups, afraid of backlash, decided to stay out of this race, clearly intimidated by the most radical elements of the political left. Private polling showed Hagedorn down by nearly double digits and the political experts predicted a big loss for him. At one point the groups on the left were outspending those on the right by a 14-to-1 margin, as Eric Holder and liberals eyed a flip of the conservative leaning court.

But these attacks backfired and motivated the conservative base. They saw that the attacks on Hagedorn’s school were in effect imposing an unconstitutional religious test: that you cannot be a Christian and a judge. These groups were functionally persecuting Hegedorn for his religious beliefs. And whether voters held those same beliefs or not, they didn’t fall for the bigoted attacks. When voters heard about this, they were upset and motivated to take action. The conservative grassroots went out and knocked on doors, texted friends and family members, and delivered more votes for Hagedorn.  

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