Candidates in Republican attorney general primary promise tough-on-crime policies

By: - August 8, 2022 6:30 am
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In the three-person Republican primary for Wisconsin attorney general, all the candidates promise to bring tough-on-crime policies to the state Department of Justice — although only one of them has law enforcement experience. 

The race is between Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney, former state Rep. Adam Jarchow and attorney Karen Mueller, but Toney and Jarchow have garnered the most attention and campaign donations. The winner of the primary on Tuesday will face off against Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul in November. 

Toney has been the DA in Fond du Lac County since 2013, while Jarchow, who served two terms in the Assembly, has never practiced criminal law. Mueller, whose campaign has been full of conspiracy theories about COVID-19 vaccinations and election fraud, filed an unsuccessful lawsuit asking the state Supreme Court to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. 

Jarchow and Mueller did not respond to interview requests, but Toney says he’s the best option because he’s the only actual prosecutor on the ticket. 

“We need a prosecutor to run our Wisconsin Department of Justice,” he says. “We’ve never elected an AG who wasn’t a prosecutor. We have to make sure we send the candidate forward with the experience and background that can defeat Josh Kaul.”

“We’ve got federal officials, state legislators, our law enforcement, they’ve made their voice loud and clear that we need a prosecutor and not a politician,” he added.

Throughout the campaign, Toney and Jarchow have made crime a key issue, saying that violent crime and lawlessness have increased in the state. 

Toney told the Wisconsin Examiner that if elected, he would use the state DOJ’s power and take original jurisdiction over cases in Milwaukee County to make sure people are put behind bars. He also argued for an amendment to the state constitution on cash bail for criminal defendants. The constitution only allows cash bail to be assessed against a criminal defendant to make sure they appear in court. The proposed amendment would also allow judges to assess bail if a defendant is deemed violent. 

At a debate in June, Jarchow said criminals going free is a “cancer.” 

“We have a cancer in our criminal justice system,” Jarchow said. “The attorney general has to use the bully pulpit to force these attorneys, through transparency and accountability to the counties, to make sure that they’re actually putting criminals behind bars.” 

The race, like many of Wisconsin’s Republican primary campaigns, has also focused heavily on allegations of election fraud following conspiracy theories about the 2020 election. Toney and Jarchow have promised to use the attorney general’s office to prosecute people accused of election fraud. 

Toney, who as district attorney recently charged people who allegedly listed P.O. boxes as their residential address when they registered to vote, touted that work as a reason he is serious about the issue. 

He also praised the investigative work of Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling, who has called for five current and former members of the Wisconsin Elections Commission to be charged with felony election fraud for votes they took regarding voting in nursing homes during the 2020 election. Schmaling, who recently said he wouldn’t charge a man who admitted to falsely requesting other people’s absentee ballots, has endorsed Toney. 

“I’m prosecuting more election fraud than anyone in Wisconsin,” Toney says.

Even though some of the people he’s charged have said they didn’t know they were breaking the law when they registered, according to Wisconsin Watch, Toney says that’s not a believable excuse. 

“Nobody who’s registered at a UPS store can credibly say they didn’t know that [it was against the law],” he says. 

Jarchow has said that if he’s elected he’ll use the DOJ’s power to investigate the 2020 election. 

Both Jarchow and Toney have said they’ll use the DOJ to sue the federal government and the administration of President Joe Biden. 

“We are looking for every opportunity to right the balance of power between federal and state government, to rein in out-of-control bureaucracy and ensure the separation of powers,” Jarchow said in the debate, pointing to the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court as an advantage.

Toney identified immigration at the country’s southern border and the importation of drugs such as fentanyl as areas in which his DOJ would challenge the federal government. 

“One of the things we need is an attorney general to stand up to federal overreach,” he says. “Forcing the Biden administration to enforce our border laws.”

The primary is on Aug. 9, polls close at 8 p.m.


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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.