By SCOTT BAUER, Associated Press
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The Wisconsin Realtors Association has revoked its endorsement of Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Brian Hagedorn and asked for its $18,000 donation to be returned following reports that he helped found a private elementary school that allows gay students to be expelled.
The president and chief executive officer of the association, Michael Theo, issued a statement on Monday saying that issues that served as the reason for its endorsement have been overshadowed by other “non-real estate related issues.”
Theo said the group does not want to be associated with those issues “that directly conflict with the principles of our organization and the values of our members.”
The group is often involved behind the scenes in Wisconsin Supreme Court races, which are officially nonpartisan. It gave $18,000 to the Hagedorn campaign, money that Theo said Thursday it has asked to be returned.
Hagedorn, who is backed by conservatives, is running against his fellow state appeals court judge Lisa Neubauer in the April 2 election. Neubauer is supported by liberals.
Hagedorn’s campaign adviser, Stephan Thompson, brushed off the rare endorsement revocation, saying in a statement that “Madison isn’t going to decide who sits on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the voters are.”
Thompson said Hagedorn would return the $18,000 as requested.
Hagedorn, an evangelical Christian, has consistently argued that he has been unfairly attacked over his personal religious beliefs and that he would be a fair and impartial justice on the Supreme Court.
“Lisa Neubauer and her liberal allies will do anything to take over the court, including attacks on people of faith,” Thompson said.
Neubauer’s campaign manager, Tyler Hendricks, in a statement, noted her endorsements from more than 400 current and former judges, sheriffs and district attorneys.
“This is yet another sign that people are rejecting the partisan and radical views of Judge Hagedorn,” Hendricks said of the endorsement revocation.
The winner of the race will replace the retiring liberal Justice Shirley Abrahamson. The Wisconsin Supreme Court is now controlled 4-3 by conservatives. A win by Hagedorn would increase conservative control to 5-2, whereas a victory by Neubauer would put the control of the court in play in next year’s race for a seat held by the conservative justice Dan Kelly.
Hagedorn has been dogged in recent weeks by revelations about blog posts he made while a law school student in the mid-2000s arguing that the U.S. Supreme Court’s striking down of an anti-sodomy law could lead to the legalization of bestiality .
Last week it was revealed that Hagedorn helped found a private school in 2016 that allows teachers to be fired for being gay and gay students to be expelled. He also received $3,000 to give speeches in 2015, 2016 and 2017 to the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian legal-advocacy group that has supported criminalizing sodomy and sterilizing transgender people.
Hagedorn is the former chief legal counsel for former Republican Gov. Scott Walker and has been a state appeals court judge since 2015, when he was appointed by Walker.
Neubauer announced on Thursday that she had raised more than $1 million since getting into the race. She has loaned her campaign $250,000. Hagedorn reported raising $547,000 through January and released the first television ad of the race on Wednesday, a spot that noted his and his wife’s adoption of a newborn who was addicted to opioids.