Rock County judge race victor Michael Haakenson expecting recount

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Catherine W. Idzerda
Tuesday, April 7, 2015

JANESVILLE—Rock County's new judge is Michael Haakenson.

Haakenson, 52, defeated longtime Rock County District Attorney David O'Leary by 123 votes. The total was 9,624 to 9,501.

“I'm excited—it's still a bit surreal,” Haakenson said, shortly after the final numbers came in.

Haakenson said he expects a recount because of the slim margin between the candidates. Haakenson garnered 50.24 percent of the votes. O'Leary had 49.60 percent. There were 30 write-in votes.

In his campaign, Haakenson stressed that he was the only candidate with judicial experience. A court commissioner functions much like a judge with a court reporter, clerk and rules of evidence.

Haakenson has served as Rock County family court commissioner since March 2013. Previous to that he was part-time court commissioner and an attorney and partner at Haakenson & Haakenson Law Firm in Janesville. In that position, he handled a variety of criminal cases.

“People tell me I have the right demeanor for the job,” Haakenson said. “And I've had a ton of experience.”

Being a judge is “something I've wanted,” Haakenson said.

Haakenson ran for judge previously but didn't make it through a primary election. Former Court Commissioner Barbara McCrory won that race and serves as Branch 7 judge. Haakenson applied for and was appointed as family court commissioner in her place.

Being a judge means being able to “help fix things and help people,” Haakenson said.

That means finding justice for victims, while at the same time trying to find ways to deter criminals from reappearing in court, he said.

If a recount happens and confirms his victory, Haakenson will start Aug. 1 in Branch 5. He will replace Judge Kenneth Forbeck, who did not run for re-election.

Forbeck supported Haakenson in the race, citing “broad breadth of experience” and his ability to “make decisions after thought but without hesitation.”

Last updated: 12:14 am Wednesday, April 8, 2015

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