MADISON, Wis. — The personal and political lives of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and an embattled state Supreme Court justice have been intertwined for decades, starting with their overlapping semesters at Marquette University, where the future justice penned anti-gay opinion pieces and threatened to resign from the student government over a multicultural course requirement.
Justice Rebecca Bradley’s writings bashing gays, feminism, abortion and political correctness at Marquette University from the early 1990s resurfaced this week, in the midst of her run for a full 10-year term on the Wisconsin Supreme Court. They have become a central issue in the April 5 election, where she faces state Appeals Court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg.
Walker hasn’t said whether he knew about Bradley’s writings before he appointed her to three judicial openings. Bradley said she has never spoken with Walker about them.
But his political opponents say there’s no way the former Republican presidential candidate couldn’t have known about Bradley’s outspoken positions, given their connections at Marquette.
Walker and Bradley only overlapped at the private Jesuit school in Milwaukee for a year, a time when they coincidentally both had letters to the editor published in the student newspaper, an Associated Press review of records showed. Bradley’s most controversial writings, including her column calling gay people “queers” and “degenerates,” were not published until two years after Walker left college.
Bradley, in a forum Wednesday at the Milwaukee Bar Association, apologized for the third time in as many days for her college opinions, saying her views are different today thanks to a “mosaic of life experiences.”
There are other ties from Marquette connecting Bradley and Walker decades ago.
The future state Supreme Court justice served as a senator on Marquette’s student government alongside Jim Villa, one of Walker’s longest and most trusted advisers. Villa and Bradley were on the student senate together at a heated meeting in 1991 where Bradley slammed down her nameplate and threatened to resign during a discussion of whether the university should add a multicultural course requirement, according to an article in the Marquette Tribune, the student newspaper.
Villa, who graduated from Marquette in 1994, went on to serve as Walker’s chief of staff for five years when Walker was Milwaukee County executive and as an informal adviser to Walker’s ill-fated presidential run last year. Villa, who is also a close personal friend of Walker’s, currently works as a top vice president at the University of Wisconsin.
Scot Ross, director of One Wisconsin Now, the liberal group that brought to light Bradley’s college writings, said he thinks Villa must have told Walker about Bradley’s political past.
But Villa told AP on Wednesday that he did not, even as she was applying for judicial appointments. He said he remembered Bradley from college, but they were not close friends.
“I didn’t advise the governor on Rebecca Bradley’s appointments, whatsoever,” Villa said. He also said he didn’t talk with Walker about her college writings.
“Not only did I not speak to him about it, I didn’t remember those writings,” Villa said.
Walker’s spokeswoman, Laurel Patrick, didn’t immediately respond to messages asking when Walker first met Bradley and first learned of her college writing.
Bradley told reporters Wednesday that she can’t remember when she first met Walker, and that she’s never discussed her college writings with him.
Another column written by Bradley for Marquette’s student magazine in 1992 came to light Wednesday. In it, Bradley argued that writer and critic Camille Paglia “legitimately” suggested that women play a role in date rape. In a collection of essays published that year, Paglia wrote that a girl who gets “dead drunk” at a fraternity party is a fool, and that if she goes upstairs with a fraternity brother she is an idiot.
“Feminists call this ‘blaming the victim.’ I call it common sense,” Paglia wrote.
Bradley also wrote that she intended to expose the feminist movement as largely composed of angry, militant, man-hating lesbians who abhor the traditional family.
Bradley didn’t disclose any of the college writings in the application materials she submitted to Walker for the three judicial openings, even though the application forms asked for a list of academic activities, including extracurricular involvement. She did list her time as a Marquette University student senator and as editor of the student newspaper at Divine Savior Holy Angels High School.
Walker first appointed Bradley as a judge on the Milwaukee County circuit court in 2012 before naming her to the state Court of Appeals in May 2015. He named her to the state Supreme Court last October. Bradley also donated $250 to Walker’s recall election campaign in 2012.
Bradley has tried to distance herself from Walker, arguing that she applies the law independently and fairly and does not let politics sway her decisions. The race is officially nonpartisan, but conservatives are backing Bradley and liberals are supporting Kloppenburg.
Walker on Tuesday dodged a question about whether he would have appointed Bradley had she disclosed any of her previous writings, which have elicited criticism from liberals and Democrats who say she should resign over her anti-gay comments.
“It’s really irrelevant,” Walker said, adding “it’s right now up to the voters.”
Associated Press writer Bryna Godar in Madison and Greg Moore in Milwaukee contributed to this report.