Opposing views on crime and abortion ban lead to decisive race for AG | New
MADISON (WKOW) — How the Wisconsin Department of Justice handles violent crimes and an ongoing lawsuit challenging the 170-year-old abortion ban will depend on the choice voters make this fall.
In extended interviews with 27 News, Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul and his Republican challenger, Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney, outlined their approaches to two of the most important issues of this mid-term election cycle. -mandate: to deal with the continuing spike in homicides in Milwaukee. and Wisconsin’s abortion ban.
Candidates for Attorney General on Crime
Toney’s boldest pledge is one that promises to work with the GOP-controlled legislature to have the DOJ take over violent crime prosecutions in Milwaukee County.
When asked what he would do differently if given such authority, Toney said he would work with lawmakers to provide additional funding to prosecutors, state officials and law enforcement analysts. crime.
How would that be different from the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee County getting these resources directly from the state?
Toney pointed to the recent budget proposed by Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson, which called for the elimination of 17 police officer positions.
“Police numbers are down, even with the mayor’s latest budget proposal,” Toney said. “So we’re seeing fewer resources of the total number of police devoted to this issue, and we need our attorney general’s office to be able to increase that.”
Milwaukee gives its police department more funding than any other department in the city. Johnson’s budget provides more overall funding for the police, despite the job cuts. Johnson said the pressure on public safety is due to rising retirement costs.
Under former Gov. Scott Walker, Republicans exempted police and firefighters from their controversial 2011 Bill 10 reforms that dramatically reduced the ability of public worker unions to bargain collectively.
Toney said he still believes he will get better results for Milwaukee and the rest of the state by working more closely with Republicans controlling the legislature.
“What we need is an attorney general that the legislature trusts to partner with them to help keep Wisconsin safe,” Toney said. “And I made those connections.”
Kaul accused Toney of missing the biggest problem with public safety funding: that revenue shared with local governments has held steady while costs, pensions and the like, continue to rise.
“My opponent is talking about it,” Kaul said. “But he didn’t provide any potential source of funding because he didn’t want to stand up to Republicans in the Legislature and call on them to invest in public safety.”
Kaul is requesting two additional roving prosecutors in the proposed budget for the next two-year cycle, along with 19 state agents and 16 other crime lab specialists.
When asked what exactly officers and lab specialists would do to solve homicides, which often depend on witnesses feeling comfortable enough to share what they know, Kaul said the State agents could help improve relations.
“First, they are investigators,” Kaul said. “And any good investigator is going to develop relationships with people who have information about the crimes.”
Crime lab’s broken promises?
Toney took aim at Kaul on the number of cases the state crime lab has handled under Kaul, compared to that of his predecessor, Republican Brad Schimel.
While the crime lab processed evidence of more than 12,000 cases in 2018, which was Schimel’s last year in office, that number was less than 10,000 in 2021. Kaul had made efficiency improvements of the crime lab a vital part of his 2018 campaign.
Kaul argued that this was an “apple to oranges” comparison because Kaul’s DOJ was more selective about what evidence it accepts for treatment.
“We’ve professionalized what we do at the crime lab,” Kaul said. “So we’re only collecting the evidence that needs to be collected, so we’re not testing things unnecessarily.”
When asked, Kaul did not provide specific examples of the evidence processed under Schimel that is currently denied.
“We brought together groups of people who worked together to identify submission guidelines, so that someone who submits something does it in a way that gets the key evidence they need,” Kaul said. “They don’t unnecessarily submit whatever someone decides to submit, but rather, it’s informed by the crime lab scientists, who know where they’ll get results.”
Toney said the numbers were a sign of an inefficient operation because it also took longer to get results in 2021 for six of the 10 categories of evidence the DOJ tracks, according to a Politifact audit.
If elected, Toney said he would provide more oversight and direction.
“We have to make sure they’re supported, there’s oversight,” Toney said. “And that we have an attorney general who is focused on those issues.”
Abortion ban looms
Kaul filed a lawsuit in June challenging Wisconsin’s 1849 abortion ban, which conservatives say is back in effect after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
Kaul argues that the courts must clarify whether a law can become active after being inactive for 50 years, and whether it can coexist with a 20-week ban that Republican lawmakers passed under Walker.
The 1849 ban makes it a crime to perform an abortion at any time and only provides exceptions when the health of the mother is in danger.
“We have conflicting sets of laws on the books in Wisconsin,” Kaul said. “There’s this 19th century prohibition, and then, at the same time, there are laws that regulate legal abortion in Wisconsin, so it can’t be both legal and illegal, so what we’re asking for the courts to do is to clarify that.”
Kaul said that even if the ban was upheld, as long as he was attorney general, he would not use DOJ resources to investigate or prosecute abortions.
“We have limited resources at the DOJ,” he said. “We investigate and prosecute the most serious crimes in the state of Wisconsin, and shift those resources to prosecuting doctors, nurses, or even someone who drove a family member to a clinic to get abortion? It would be a huge waste of Justice Department resources.”
Toney pledged to help district attorneys seeking to prosecute abortions. On Friday, he got an endorsement from Susan B. Anthony of Pro Life America.
Toney would not rule out using state resources to investigate and prosecute abortions resulting from cases of rape or incest.
“We take each case on its own merits,” Toney said. “And if the Legislature were to pass an additional exception, as Attorney General, whether I agree with it or not, I will defend it because it is the responsibility of our Attorney General.”
When asked what he would do if a district attorney sought help in prosecuting someone who performed an abortion on a rape victim, Toney said he would offer help to the victim, while leaving the door open for assistance in prosecution.
“I’ve sat across from sexual assault survivors who have gone through this trauma, and I understand that it doesn’t go away after a month or a year; it can last with them forever,” Toney said. “And we have to make sure that we support them, that they have those resources available to them, and we take things on a case-by-case basis. We don’t prejudge things and say, ‘We’re always going to do this or always do that. .'”