Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

The Disastrous Candidacy of Brian Hagedorn

After weeks of negative press, his Supreme Court campaign is reeling. Who vetted him?

By - Feb 21st, 2019 12:47 pm
Brian Hagedorn. Photo courtesy of the Friends of Brian Hagedorn.

Brian Hagedorn. Photo courtesy of the Friends of Brian Hagedorn.

Finally conservatives have a candidate for the state’s highest court who is really against bestiality. I’m guessing that sex with animals is not a top of mind issue for, oh, 99 percent of the electorate, but it’s been hugely important to Judge Brian Hagedorn.

Back in 2006, when Hagedorn blogged often as “a fellow solider in the culture wars,” he made clear how much he hated the 2003 U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas which struck down anti-sodomy laws prohibiting sex between unmarried consulting adults, be they heterosexual or homosexual. Since such laws were typically enforced only against gay couples, it was hailed as a big step forward for gay rights. 

Which outraged Hagedorn, who called the Supreme Court’s decision a travesty that “should render laws prohibiting bestiality unconstitutional” as a story by Journal Sentinel columnist Dan Bice reported.

“What if the dog liked it and frequently initiated it?” Hagedorn wrote. “Shouldn’t the ACLU come to the rescue of the man for having sex in the privacy of his own home (or here, his own doghouse)?”

Yes, that’s pretty sophomoric stuff, but Hagedorn was then 27, a married father of two, a student at Northwestern Law School and an intern at the Foley & Lardner law firm. This was an adult declaring that “The Lord has laid three fundamental passions on my heart:” including “1) Protecting the dignity and sanctity of human life” (he called the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade “the worst and most unjustifiable decision in history”) and “(2) Defending and preserving the institution of marriage.”

And Hagedorn, now 40, clearly hasn’t changed his views. The press has since reported that he “helped create and serves on the board of a private Christian elementary school that prohibits anyone working there from being in a same-sex relationship and could expel students who are LGBTQ…. The school’s code of conduct covering employees, board members, parents and students prohibits ‘immoral sexual activity,’ defined as anything ‘apart from the context of marriage between one man and one woman’”

And Hagedorn received $1,000 per speech for three speeches in 2015, 2016 and 2017 to an organization the Southern Poverty Law Center calls a “hate group” for supporting criminal sanctions against sodomy and sterilizing transgender people, as the Journal Sentinel reported. 

This was a judge on the state Court of Appeals speaking to a group like this, which shows incredibly poor judgment, but also tells us how strongly Hagedorn opposes “sodomy” and LGBT people. Hagedorn’s campaign, in fact, declined to release the text of those speeches or answer whether Hagedorn has changed his beliefs since writing those blog posts.   

All told, these are stunning revelations and the reaction was not long in coming. On Monday, Michael Theo, President & CEO of the Wisconsin Realtors Association announced that “As a result of recent disclosures regarding past statements and actions by Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Brian Hagedorn,” his group has withdrawn its endorsement of his candidacy. “The real estate related issues that served as the basis for our endorsement have been overshadowed by… 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.” 

The WRA is a huge group, and it’s a safe bet it has many members who are gay or have family and friends who are gay — not to mention the many gay customers realtors have. Gay rights has become a mainstream position nowadays, with a 2016 Marquette Law School poll finding that the US Supreme Court’s decision approving gay marriage was supported by 52 percent of those polled, with 40 percent opposed. 

This was two years after Wisconsin’s law banning gay marriage was struck down by the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, a case where Hagedorn worked with the state Department of Justice as Gov. Scott Walker’s legal counsel to defend the state law. His views on this, as with his opposition to gay sex in the privacy of one’s home, are in conflict with what is now established court precedent.   

Indeed, there are even Evangelical educational institutions that are beginning to admit LGBT students.

In short, Hagedorn’s views are out of the mainstream and far out of the mainstream of younger Millennials. Which raises the question: who vetted his candidacy for the Wisconsin Supreme Court?  

Clearly it was Walker, who chose Hagedorn as his chief counsel and then appointed him to the appeals court in 2015 (he won a full term in 2017). His strong backing by the then-governor won him the immediate support of Republicans when he announced his candidacy for the state’s highest court back in August, and it was expected he would have Walker campaign operatives helping his candidacy. 

Hagedorn, after all, had all the right credentials, graduating from one of the country’s top law schools, serving three years as an attorney with an elite firm like Foley & Lardner and then as a law clerk at the Wisconsin Supreme Court (though it was for Justice Michael Gableman, hardly a pillar of legal acumen). And Hagedorn was well regarded for his work as Walker’s counsel. 

But the reality is the world has changed greatly on the issue of LGBT rights, much of that in just the last five years. Hagedorn’s views now look “personal, extreme and radical,” as his opponent Lisa Neubauer’s campaign manager, Tyler Hendricks, declared. As Charles Geyh, a professor at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, put it to Bice: “What concerns me is not (Hagedorn’s) views per se, but his characterization of those views as God-given ‘fundamental passions,’ which raises questions as to whether he can set those passions aside as the law requires.”

“He’s been Biced numerous times now,” says a Republican operative, of Bice’s reporting. “I’ve had candidates go through the same treatment and it can be very hard to overcome. Third party ads will use the issue, and it won’t go away.”

Actually Bice only did the first story. The second was research by the liberal group One Wisconsin Now and third was by Bice’s JS colleague Patrick Marley. 

But the point is the same. The quick reaction by the Realtors Association is dreadful news for Hagedorn’s campaign. This is a group that has spent millions to elect Supreme Court candidates and actually helped write a much derided, watered-down recusal rule accepted by the court which allows justices to rule in favor of litigants who gave huge donations to court members. 

In short, the Realtors are a group that wants very much to elect justices who back its views. But they’ve decided it’s a waste of money to support Hagedorn. Meanwhile, Neubauer is running a pretty flawless campaign, collecting ever more endorsements and is on track to raise as much as $1.5 million in donations. It’s far too early to declare Hagedorn dead, but he will have to stage one hell of a comeback to defeat Neubauer. 

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Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

8 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: The Disastrous Candidacy of Brian Hagedorn”

  1. Louis Barbash says:

    To whom does the “he” in “’What if the dog liked it and frequently initiated it?’ he wrote” refer, Bice or Hagedorn? IOW, was it a serious question posed by Hagedorn or a sarcastic question posed by Bice?

  2. Bruce Murphy says:

    Louis, I changed the he to Hagedorn to make that clearer, it was from his blog.

  3. blurondo says:

    Hagedorn has now been Murphyed, and very fittingly, too.

  4. Paul Trotter says:

    “You ( Hagedorn) are an alum of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom through its secretive ministry, the Blackstone Legal Fellowship. The ADR advocates “fighting the homosexual agenda” under the guise of defending religious freedom. You don’t belong on the WI Supreme Court.”

    A real special candidate. Go to wonder – how did he get to be a candidate.

  5. suechar says:

    Every time I hear his name I automatically think of Agedor (Spartacus) and start laughing inappropriately.
    Yes, yes, immature I know but you take what you can these days.

  6. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    He became a candidate because of the outlandish bigotry and his ability to kiss up to the right people.

    That, and a membership in the Federalist Society, is what moves you up the scale in right-wing legal circles. Competence, consistency and honesty? That’s for the libs.

    Vote Neubauer, folks.

  7. Paul Trotter says:

    Yet the same conservatives who voted for Trump will vote for this extemist. It’s frightening that Walker and the rest of the Republican Party viewed him as the perfect candidate. I thought Rebecca Bradley was extreme. Apparently the Republican Party wants to veer further to the right.

    Is he now the face of the Republican Party in WI?

    Where are the conservatives to defend this candidate. Didn’t there used to be a few on here that would speak up? Bob someone?

  8. huk730 says:

    A disgrace to the name of Hagedorn. I’m one Hagedorn voting for Neubauer

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