- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 9, 2019


When I ran into Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Brian Hagedorn at the state’s NRA convention in mid-January, the temperature outside stood at 25 degrees below zero. That he was out and campaigning in that sort of weather was perhaps a good sign, but virtually no one gave him a chance in what loomed as incredibly important race. He had the support of the NRA, Sen. Ron Johnson and of the state’s various right-to-life organizations, but little else.

Although these races in Wisconsin are nominally non-partisan, they are in reality anything but; his opponent, Lisa Neubauer, is as liberal as Mr. Hagedorn is conservative. He was appointed to the state court of appeals by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, and she owed her appointment to former Democrat Jim Doyle, one of Wisconsin’s most liberal governors. Both were re-elected on their own, but it was widely believed as the race developed that she would easily beat Mr. Hagedorn and give Democrats a real chance at taking control of the state’s highest court in 2020.

As we chatted about his chances on that cold January morning in Wausau, Mr. Hagedorn was under-funded and his opponent had the support of more than 300 state judges, 50 Wisconsin district attorneys and more than a dozen current or former police chiefs and county sheriffs. Liberal activist groups were pouring cash into the state, the Wisconsin Republican Party was in disarray and still recovering from the 2018 defeat of Scott Walker and the state’s business community, sensing that Mr. Hagedorn couldn’t win was in the process of deserting him to curry favor with the newly triumphant Democratic establishment.

The outside money flowing into the race included literally millions from Eric Holder’s Democratic Redistricting Committee. Planned Parenthood and organized labor. They all smelled blood and saw vanquishing Mr. Hagedorn as the final step they needed to take to break the GOP and win Wisconsin for whoever takes on Donald Trump next year.

They weren’t taking any chances and were determined to win by putting a stake through Mr. Hagedorn’s heart. They attacked his evangelical Christian beliefs and the fact that a Christian Elementary School he had founded doesn’t hire homosexual instructors. They even went back to his student days to unearth comments and positions he took back then to destroy him and his candidacy. Before they were finished, it seemed as if no one would stand up for him regardless of the importance of the race.

But then something happened and in Wisconsin it seemed a little like what Yogi Berra might have called deja vu all over again. Conservatives began to realize that if liberal progressives were to take over the State Supreme Court, the reforms of the Walker years would be reversed and at the same time began to see the attempt to belittle and demonize Hagedorn and his values as an attack on theirs. They began making calls, getting together and while anyone asked on last Monday who would be the winner would have predicted a Neubauer landslide, on Tuesday Wisconsin voters came out in record numbers for such a race and handed Mr. Hagedorn a narrow victory.

Oh, Ms. Neubauer carried Madison and the areas that belonged to Hillary Clinton in 2016, but rural voters and those living in places like Green Bay turned out to vote for Mr. Hagedorn as they had for Donald Trump and, like Mr. Trump, shocked the pundits and analysts.

Oh, it was close as it was in 2016 and a recount is possible, but in Wisconsin a recount has to be paid for by the person calling for it and rarely results in many changes. Mr. Hagedorn won on Tuesday by 5,962 votes; the recount in 2016 cost more than a million dollars and resulted in a change of only 131 votes and they favored Mr. Trump rather than Mrs. Clinton, so the odds are that Mr. Hagedorn’s victory will stand.

That’s good news for the candidate, of course, and for Wisconsin conservatives, but it is also good news for a president who will be running to carry the Badger State again next year and who can take comfort in the fact that the attitudes that motivated Wisconsinites to vote for him then are still there today regardless of the predictions of those so certain that he won’t beat the establishment again.

• David A. Keene is an editor at large for The Washington Times.

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