Conservative-backed challenger Maria Lazar beats incumbent Lori Kornblum for seat on the Court of Appeals

Maria Lazar defeated incumbent Judge Lori Kornblum for a seat on the Court of Appeals for District II.
Maria Lazar defeated incumbent Judge Lori Kornblum for a seat on the Court of Appeals for District II.

With support from free-spending conservative groups and endorsements from major Republicans, Waukesha County Judge Maria Lazar easily defeated incumbent Judge Lori Kornblum for a seat on the Court of Appeals for District II.

Kornblum, 65, a former Milwaukee County prosecutor living in Mequon, was appointed to the Waukesha-based seat last year and began work there in January. Lazar, 58, of Brookfield, had announced last year she would seek the job via election. She was elected to the circuit court in 2015, after five years at the state Department of Justice and 20 years in private practice.

Lazar took 158,290 votes, to Kornblum's 131,863, good for a 55% to 45% margin of victory, according to complete unofficial results.

Lazar's win was the second time in two years a conservative-backed challenger defeated an incumbent appellate judge appointed by Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat. Last year, Shelley Grogan, a law clerk to conservative Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley, beat Jeffrey Davis, who represented corporate clients at a major law firm and had served on the Court of Appeals for nearly two years.

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Third-party TV ads from conservatives supporting Lazar called Kornblum a liberal, picked by Evers, who would "legislate from the bench," even though the Court of Appeals functions as a correcting court for cases from the trial level.

One ad supporting Lazar even used video from the Waukesha Christmas parade tragedy to link Kornblum to Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, whom the ad tries to blame for the suspect in the mass casualty event being free on bail at the time. Kornblum left the DA's office in 2014.

Kornblum's campaign put out a TV ad attacking Lazar's sentencing decision in the case of a former Brookfield police officer and federal agent convicted of sexually assaulting a woman he had been dating. Lazar gave David Scharlat 11 months in jail, not the four years prosecutors recommended.

The officially non-partisan race is for one of four seats on the District II panel of the court based in Waukesha, which hears appeals from 12 counties in southeastern Wisconsin, excluding Milwaukee County, which is its own district. Judges on the court earn $164,207 a year.

The other judges on District II are Mark Gundrum and Lisa Neubauer.

Contact Bruce Vielmetti at (414) 224-2187 or bvielmetti@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ProofHearsay.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Maria Lazar beats Kornblum for seat on Court of Appeals in Wisconsin