Photo credit: BU News Service via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Conservative Judge Shocks Left with Upset Election Win in Wisconsin


There was a major political upset in Wisconsin this week as a conservative surmounted tremendous odds and attacks on his Christian faith to win a seat on the state Supreme Court.

With 100 percent of results counted, Wisconsin Court of Appeals Judge Brian Hagedorn has defeated left-backed candidate Lisa Neubauer by 6,000 votes out of 1.2 million cast, a margin of 0.5 percent. Neubauer has called for a recount, which is allowed when the margin is less than one percent. However, she must fund it, and recounts do not typically change the result by thousands of votes.

Wisconsin is one of 25 states that elects justices to its Supreme Court. Races are non-partisan, meaning candidates do not align with a party. But Hagedorn was backed by conservatives and Republicans, and Neubauer by liberals and Democrats. Neubauer supporters spent over $1.2 million on her behalf, while Hagedorn supporters spent less than $100,000 on his behalf. Neubauer’s campaign also outraised Hagedorn’s campaign.

Hagedorn came under heavy fire in Wisconsin media for his Christian and conservative views on a variety of topics. As National Review detailed, Hagedorn was attacked for expressing pro-life views; criticizing Planned Parenthood; disagreeing with same-sex marriage; agreeing with the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s views on the constitutionality of anti-sodomy laws; founding a Christian private school that held its employees to a Christian code of conduct; and speaking to Alliance Defending Freedom, a nonprofit law firm that supports religious freedom. Leftists attacked Hagedorn as a bigot. The Wisconsin Realtors Association rescinded its endorsement of Hagedorn, and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s largest business lobby, alsowithdrew financial support for Hagedorn.

But the attacks on Hagedorn’s faith appear to have provoked a backlash. One Republican strategist in Wisconsin said they “lit an incredible grassroots fire.” Voters reacted against the idea that Christians who hold orthodox views are unfit for political office. Hagedorn pledged that he would rule according only to the law and the Constitution.

Hagedorn’s campaign was so badly outraised that it did not even have enough money to conduct an internal poll, and most political observers believed he was headed for defeat. His apparent victory has sent shock waves through Wisconsin.

Hagedorn’s victory also has ramifications for the 2020 elections. Wisconsin has trended red in the last decade. In 2016, it voted for a Republican presidential candidate for the first time since Ronald Reagan in 1984. Governor Scott Walker also won two elections and survived a recall effort. Walker’s defeat in his bid for a third term in 2018 had given hope to Democrats that Wisconsin would return to its light-blue past. But scurrilous attacks on faith have sent an underdog conservative to the state Supreme Court to replace a retiring leftist judge, giving conservatives a 5-2 majority.

The 2020 presidential election may run through the Upper Midwest, as it did in 2016. Will leftists learn that their radical attacks on Christians put them in big trouble moving forward?

Photo credit: BU News Service via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Thomas Valentine

Thomas Valentine is a columnist for

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