Lisa Neubauer conceded the Wisconsin Supreme Court race Wednesday, deciding against a recount.
The decision comes eight days after the election showed Brian Hagedorn ahead by 5,801 votes in a race seen as an early measure of a key battleground in the 2020 presidential campaign.
About 1.2 million voted in the April elections. Over 3.4 million in Wisconsin are registered to vote.
Neubauer was backed by liberals, while Hagedorn is backed by conservatives in what is supposed to be nonpartisan elections for those 10-year terms.
Neubauer’s concession means the conservative majority on the court will increase 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 year’s election.
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 Christian beliefs.
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.”
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.
Hagedorn spent much of the race defending his personal conservative beliefs. Opponents pointed to a blog he wrote while a law school student in the mid-2000s and his founding of a conservative private school that allows for expelling students who are gay.
In its code of personal conduct listed on the school teacher application, school officials say teachers may be fired and students may be disciplined or forced to withdraw from the school if they or their parents violate the code’s policies. The rules include no “immoral sexual activity,” defined as any activity that occurs outside of marriage between a man and a woman.
Hagedorn was also paid $3,000 to give speeches at meetings of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a group that supported criminalizing sodomy and sterilizing transgender people.
Hagedorn was endorsed by the National Rifle Association and Wisconsin Right to Life.
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 years later.
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.
In his blog, Hagedorn wrote about his evangelical Christian beliefs, calling Planned Parenthood a “wicked organization” and denouncing court rulings favoring gay rights by likening homosexuality to bestiality.
Hagedorn will 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.