Absent a state Supreme Court race, appellate court races in District II, based in Waukesha and District IV, based in Madison highlighted the spring judicial campaign season.
A pair of candidates with local recognition replaced longtime judges in each district.
Judge Harry G. Snyder stepped down in District II after 19 years and Judge Charles P. Dykman retired from District IV after 32 years.
Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard, 51, easily won the race in District IV over Richland County Circuit Court Judge Edward E. Leineweber, 61, with 63 percent of the vote.
Despite facing an opponent with judicial experience, the nine-year county prosecutor pointed to his appellate experience as something that resonated with voters.
He spent a year clerking for 7th Circuit Judge Walter J. Cummings and spent two years as a federal prosecutor doing appellate court work in Chicago.
“I really stressed that experience during my campaign,” he said.
But Blanchard said he was surprised by the landslide win.
“I compare voters to jurors in that you really just don’t know what they are thinking until they execute their decision-making power,” he said. “I know it was challenging for both me and my opponent to make ourselves known in all 24 counties in the district.”
With almost four months to prepare for his new job, Blanchard expects a smooth transition out of his prosecutor role.
But one his primary goal on the bench will be to address the ongoing backlog in the Court of Appeals.
“I know it’s generally frustrating to parties in both criminal and civil cases to see delays,” he said. “After getting up to speed, I want to work with colleagues to address everything from filing notice of appeal with the court to resolution of a case.”
Blanchard said he is familiar with the other current judges in District IV, including Judge Paul B. Higginbotham, who previously served as a judge in Dane County.
Reilly edges Van De Water
The race in Waukesha was closer, as circuit court Judge Paul F. Reilly held off fellow trial court judge Linda M. Van De Water.
Both joined the Waukesha County Circuit Court in 2003 and were re-elected last spring.
Reilly edged Van de Water, who will retain her circuit court seat, by about 9,000 votes.