A major supporter of state Supreme Court candidate Brian Hagedorn has pulled its endorsement and asked for a return of campaign contributions after recent reports about Hagedorn’s ties to a school that bans gay students, teachers and parents.
The Wisconsin Realtors Association released a statement this week, saying Hagedorn’s public stances on social issues have made it impossible for the industry group to continue its support.
"The real estate related issues that served as the basis for our endorsement have been overshadowed by other, non-real estate related issues – issues with which we do not want to be associated and that directly conflict with the principles of our organization and the values of our members," said Michael Theo, president and CEO of the organization.
According to a campaign finance report released earlier this month, Hagedorn has received $18,000 from the association, making it one of his largest donors.
Hagedorn’s campaign brushed off the change of heart Thursday.
"Madison isn’t going to decide who sits on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the voters are," a spokesperson for Hagedorn's campaign said in an email to WPR. "Lisa Neubauer and her liberal allies will do anything to take over the court, including attacks on people of faith. Despite Neubauer’s smears, Judge Hagedorn will continue to spread his message of defending the rule of law, upholding the constitution, and protecting the public."
Last week, Hagedorn defended his association with Augustine Academy in Delafield, Wisconsin. Hagedorn sits on the board of the school, which requires faculty, staff, students and parents to follow a code of conduct that prohibits same-sex relationships. The school’s "Statement of Faith" also speaks critically of transgender individuals.
Previously, Hagedorn received criticism for blog posts he wrote during law school that were sharply critical of homosexuality and abortion.
The judge, who serves on the District 2 Court of Appeals, has defended his affiliation and comments by saying he can separate his personal beliefs from his work on the bench. He has characterized the criticism as attacks on his faith.
Hagedorn will face fellow appellate court judge Lisa Neubauer in April’s state Supreme Court election. The candidates are vying to fill the seat of longtime justice Shirley Abrahamson, who is retiring.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with original reporting from WPR staff.