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State Supreme Court candidates pledge to uphold Constitution, explain why they're running

Hagedorn and Neubauer debate march15.jpg

MADISON, Wis. - On April 2, Wisconsin voters can head to the polls and cast their ballots in the race for Wisconsin Supreme Court justice.

Judges Brian Hagedorn and Lisa Neubauer, who both currently serve on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, are each vying for the open seat after longtime Justice Shirley Abrahamson stepped down from the state's highest court.

Neubauer, who is backed by liberals, was appointed by former Gov. Jim Doyle in 2008 and became chief judge of the Court of Appeals in 2015. She lives in Racine and is backed by more than 300 judges.

"I am somebody who doesn't come to my decision-making with any agenda. No ideology. No outcomes predetermined. I am somebody who truly follows the law, follows the Constitution and works really hard to get it right," Neubauer told Fox 47.

Hagedorn, who has the support of conservative groups and more than 40 current and former sheriffs, served as chief legal counsel for former Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Walker appointed him to the Court of Appeals in 2015.

"I want to uphold the Constitution the way it's written -- protecting our rights like freedom of speech or freedom of religion, right to bear arms. Those things are actually written in the document," said Hagedorn, who lives in Oconomowoc.

The race has been a bitter one, with partisan groups criticizing opponents' "extremist agendas."

In the last week before the election, the Republican State Leadership Committee's Judicial Fairness Initiative announced it would spend at least $1 million to help Hagedorn in an effort to outspend Neubauer.

Neubauer said Monday she has raised $860,000 over a six-week period that ended March 18. Hagedorn raised $747,000 over the same time period.

Both candidates said they believe it is the role of a judge to remain impartial.

"I believe my job as a judge is to say what the law is, not what I think the law should be. It's defending the rule of law. (It) doesn't matter which political party writes the laws. You look at what the law actually says," Hagedorn told Fox 47.

"We just have to have our people have confidence that this is truly the third branch, the nonpartisan branch, and that's the kind of judge I've been for 11 years on the Court of Appeals," Neubauer said.