The Wisconsin Realtors Association has decided against endorsing in the guv’s race this year, saying both Dem Gov. Tony Evers and GOP challenger Tim Michels are good on the group’s issues.
WRA President and CEO Mike Theo told WisPolitics.com the group did its research on both candidates and then brought them in for interviews before deciding against an endorsement.
“We’ve always had a history of supporting people who have supported our issues important to our members and homeowners and property owners,” Theo said.
The group’s decision is a blow to Michels, a construction exec. The WRA endorsed Republican Scott Walker in his 2010, 2014 and 2018 runs for guv, as well as in the 2012 recall that he defeated.
Insiders have been watching to see how GOP-leaning industry groups would approach the guv’s race and if they would sit it out rather than risk endorsing the challenger only to see Evers win reelection.
Several such groups said Thursday they are still considering whether to endorse, including the Wisconsin Farm Bureau through its Volunteers for Agriculture PAC.
The same goes for several groups that endorsed Rebecca Kleefisch ahead of the GOP primary, including the Wisconsin Builders Association and the Association of Builders and Contractors.
Wisconsin Grocers Association President and CEO Brandon Scholz said the group was still waiting to meet with Michels to gauge his stance on its issues after backing Kleefisch in the primary. Scholz noted Michels, who formally launched his campaign in late April, didn’t have much on his campaign website that indicated his position on issues affecting the retail industry.
After formally endorsing Kleefisch in January before Michels got into the race, Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce is now launching an ad campaign praising Michels.
The day after the Aug. 9 GOP primary, the group issued a statement in which President and CEO Kurt Bauer praised Michels and called for new leadership in Wisconsin.
The group told WisPolitics.com it is launching a six-figure ad campaign that will run on digital and streaming services urging viewers to thank Michels for supporting lower taxes, safer neighborhoods and better schools. That comes after the group in later winter began a series of issue ads targeting Evers, who has been at odds with the group on numerous issues during his term.
Though the group typically doesn’t formally endorse candidates, it has long run issue ads praising Republicans and criticizing Dems.
“The Evers/Biden agenda is hurting Wisconsin families. Their tax and spending policies are making it worse,” the narrator says in the new WMC ad, calling Michels a job creator with a plan to rescue the economy.
For the Realtors, Evers signed several top priorities in this most recent legislative session.
That includes legislation creating a regulatory framework for homeowners’ associations and legislation overturning a 2018 state Supreme Court ruling to ensure that owners of land that abuts a navigable body of water, such as a flowage, have the right to place a pier in it.
The guv also vetoed several WRA-backed bills, such as one to require the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. to create a program to declare some residential development sites “shovel-ready” and require local governments and state agencies to expedite the permitting process for those projects. Among other things, Evers wrote in his veto message he objected to creating a program under WEDC without providing additional funding to pay for it.
Theo said the Realtors have a subcommittee that makes recommendations to the group’s board on endorsements. In the guv’s race, the group had to weigh one candidate with a nearly four-year record as guv and another without a public policy track record on the group’s issues.
Evers’ campaign declined comment on the Realtors decision, while the Michels’ campaign didn’t return a message seeking comment.
“In this case, we had candidates who both supported our issues,” Theo said.