By SCOTT BAUER Associated Press
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A Republican group announced on Tuesday it is starting a seven-figure ad buy a week before the April 2 election to boost Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Brian Hagedorn in his race against Lisa Neubauer.
The Republican State Leadership Committee’s Judicial Fairness Initiative said it is spending at least $1 million on the buy, which would be the biggest amount of outside spending for Hagedorn so far.
To date, outside spending had been overwhelmingly in favor of Hagedorn’s opponent, Neubauer, who is backed by liberals. The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign estimated that Neubauer benefited from almost seven times more in outside spending than Hagedorn, or $1.2 million, compared with his about $188,000.
Those supporting Neubauer include the Greater Wisconsin Committee, a liberal advocacy group that had spent at least $850,000 on television and digital advertising. The Service Employees International Union has spent about $131,000 on door hangers and canvassing, and Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin has spent $122,000 on online advertising and canvassers, according to the Democracy Campaign’s tally.
A group run by former Democratic U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder pledged to spend $350,000 to help Neubauer in the race.
By last week, the only outside spending benefiting Hagedorn was about $87,000 from the conservative group Americans for Prosperity that’s part of the Koch brothers’ network.
Unions were also giving directly to Neubauer’s campaign through political-action committees. Neubauer has received $172,000 from labor unions and campaign committees for current and former Democratic candidates since early February, according to the Democracy Campaign.
Hagedorn, meanwhile, has received about $108,000 from the Wisconsin Republican Party and about $11,000 from local GOP chapters. Most of the state party money has been reimbursed by Hagedorn, which basically allows the state party to do campaign work for him using money he provides.
The Republican State Leadership Committee’s Judicial Fairness Initiative said it was spending on mailings, radio and ads that will run digitally and on cable and broadcast television to help Hagedorn. The ad invoked President Donald Trump and compares attacks against Hagedorn in the race to what U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh faced.
The ad accuses “radical out-of-state special interest groups” of “spreading false attacks” against Hagedorn to help Neubauer “just like they did against Justice Kavanaugh.”
Hagedorn is an evangelical Christian who, while in law school in 2005 and 2006, wrote a blog in which he called Planned Parenthood a “wicked organization” and denounced court rulings favoring gay rights by likening homosexuality to bestiality. In 2016, he founded a private Christian elementary school that bars homosexual teachers and allows for the expulsion of gay students.
Hagedorn also has faced criticism for giving speeches at meetings of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a group that supported criminalizing sodomy and sterilizing transgender people and has been deemed a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Hagedorn and Neubauer meet Tuesday night for a final debate organized by Marquette University and WISN-TV. The winner will replace the retiring liberal Justice Shirley Abrahamson for a 10-year term. The court is controlled 4-3 by conservatives, but a Neubauer victory would give liberals a chance to win back the majority next year.