No election date has been set and no opponent determined, but the Wisconsin Realtors Association has already endorsed Gov. Scott Walker in the expected recall.

While not surprising -- the WRA has long backed Republican candidates for governor -- the announcement this week has angered some Realtors who say that supporting the controversial governor is hurting business.

The WRA board had unanimously backed Walker during the last campaign and helped funnel more than $150,000 to his war chest.

"It's very short-sighted for an industry trade association leadership that has 100 percent of Wisconsinites as its consumer base to act in such a clearly partisan political way," says Troy Thiel, a Realtor with http://centralmadisonliving.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/keller-williams-realty-launches-capital-square-office/"> Keller Williams Capital Square in Madison.

Thiel is a founding member of http://www.reprosforwi.org/about/">Real Estate Professionals for a Better Wisconsin (REPROS), a group formed last year after Walker began implementing some of his policies, including increased health and retirement contributions for government employees that had the effect of reducing their take-home pay, often by hundreds of dollars a month.

REPROS now counts more than 130 members from Rice Lake to Milwaukee, although that's just a sliver of the 13,000 WRA members statewide.

Paul Kurensky of http://www.mynorthshorehomes.com/">Northshore Homes in Milwaukee says he's long been against the WRA making political endorsements. But he's particularly bothered by what he calls the "knee-jerk" endorsement of Republican gubernatorial candidates in the past, including Mark Green and Scott McCallum.

"Real estate agents aren't a homogenous group any more than homebuyers," he says. "By making these endorsements they just end up pissing people off."

WRA officials in the past have defended their endorsements, saying they select candidates who will best represent the business community. The group endorsed 45 Democrats and 41 Republicans in 2010 state legislative races.

"I realize the recall process is anything but normal," says WRA President Mike Theo. "But we reviewed the record and looked at the field and, based on real estate issues, decided no other information was necessary."

Theo says Walker has scored points on issues such as eliminating the farmland conversion fee, reducing property taxes and taking another look at wind tower siting.

But Thiel says the WRA has lost sight of its mission and is hurting the housing industry with its partisan positions. Moreover, he's upset the group uses its membership fees -- $298 annually per Realtor -- to support particular candidates.

"What we sell is the quality of Wisconsin's communities and its future," says Thiel. "Many of us are working to get the WRA to reconsider its focus to that goal. But the lack of transparency and open communication from the board is a big problem. This is groupthink at its worst and they are using our required fees to fund their pet causes."

In northern Wisconsin, the issue doesn't seem to be as controversial.

John Flor of Six Lakes Realty in Chetek says the WRA's support for Walker isn't hurting business as best as he can determine.

"I'm working with a woman right now who has a "Recall Walker" bumper sticker on her car," he says.

 

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