Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder visited Madison on Thursday to campaign for state Supreme Court candidate Lisa Neubauer, telling an audience of Democratic organizers that they'll win if they get progressives to the polls.
"Too often we focus on the presidential election," Holder said. "We've got to make sure that people understand that this is a consequential election, that this is something that they need to be engaged in."
Holder, who led the U.S. Department of Justice under President Barack Obama, now runs the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. An affiliate of the group has pledged to spend $350,000 on behalf of Neubauer, who is currently a judge on the state court of appeals.
Holder has kept a steady presence in Wisconsin the past two years, visiting the state in 2018 to campaign for state Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Dallet and Gov. Tony Evers. Holder also had a hand in taking former Gov. Scott Walker to court to force him to call two special elections in vacant legislative districts.
Neubauer faces conservative Judge Brian Hagedorn, who is also currently serving on the state court of appeals.
While the race for Supreme Court is officially nonpartisan, Neubauer has strong ties to the Democratic Party and Hagedorn has strong ties to Republicans.
Neubauer was first appointed to her seat by former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. Her husband, Jeff Neubauer, is a former Democratic state lawmaker, and her daughter is current Rep. Greta Neubauer, D-Racine.
Hagedorn was Walker's chief legal counsel for several years before Walker nominated him to a judgeship.
Sign up for daily news!
Stay informed with WPR's email newsletter.
Both the state Democratic Party and the state Republican Party are also involved in the court race.
The state GOP used Holder's visit Thursday to attack Neubauer, suggesting it showed her true colors.
"Holder continuously put(s) partisan politics over the rule of law as Attorney General," the Republican Party of Wisconsin tweeted Thursday. "Despite her claims of being 'fair and impartial,' (Neubauer) has proven to have these same priorities in mind for the Supreme Court."
Speaking to reporters in Madison, Holder brushed those criticisms aside.
"It's not as if Republicans aren't doing the same thing," Holder said. "I'm just dealing with the reality of the situation. I'm proud to be here, and I'm proud to support Lisa."
Neubauer told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel she did not want Holder's support and she would recuse herself from cases involving his organization if they come before the state Supreme Court.
"In some ways that's reflective of why I support her," Holder told reporters.
Editor's note: This story has been corrected to state Eric Holder was in Wisconsin on Thursday.