Attorney general candidates spar in final debate

October 30, 2014

   
       

Wisconsin Attorney General candidates Susan Happ and Brad Schimel participate in a debate at the Wisconsin State Bar Center in Madison, Wis. Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014.

MADISON Republican attorney general candidate Brad Schimel tried again to brand Democratic opponent Susan Happ as a liberal activist during their last pre-election debate Wednesday, even as his opponent lamented how negative their race has become.

Waukesha County District Attorney Schimel is locked in a tight race with Happ, the district attorney in Jefferson County, to replace outgoing Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. The contest has grown increasing bitter as the Nov. 4 election approaches, with both candidates accusing the other of being soft on crime. Schimel recently opened a new line of attack by labeling Happ an activist who wants to use the state Justice Department to advance liberal causes.

Buoyed by a new Marquette Law School poll showing him with a slight lead, Schimel went straight at Happ as the debate began at the state bar association's Madison headquarters, declaring that her liberal agenda would make life harder for businesses. He accused her of planning to use the DOJ to halt plans for a 4-mile long iron mine in far northwestern Wisconsin, even though federal and state environmental officials have oversight of the project.

Wisconsin Attorney General candidates Susan Happ speaks during a debate with opponent Brad Schimel at the Wisconsin State Bar Center in Madison, Wis. Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014.

"Her activism isn't only going to affect the mine. If you run any kind of business in Wisconsin you should fear her do-more agenda," Schimel said.

He also accused her of cherry-picking which laws to defend. Happ has said she wouldn't defend GOP-authored laws that require voters to show photo identification and abortion providers to get admitting privileges at hospitals.

Happ denied she'd bring a partisan agenda to the department and complained about negativity in the race, saying "the tone and tenor of the campaign has really gone awry."

But she didn't shy away from taking her own shots.

She called Schimel desperate and took him to task for saying the attorney general has a duty to automatically defend every state law.

"Unlike Brad, I don't think the attorney general is a robot," she said.

Wisconsin Attorney General candidate Brad Schimel speaks during a debate with opponent Susan Happ at the Wisconsin State Bar Center in Madison, Wis., Wednesday, Oct. 29, 2014.

She also criticized him for saying that giving the state Department of Administration oversight of assistant district attorneys was a political mistake and promising to place them under the auspices of the DOJ. She said he's the one who sounds like an activist.

The two sparred over how to tackle Wisconsin's heroin problem. Schimel said Happ was slow to realize her county had a heroin issue, and that he saw the crisis coming years ago. Happ said smaller counties often lack the resources to recognize trends immediately.

Separately Wednesday, the state Government Accountability Board dismissed a complaint filed by the Republican Party in September alleging that Happ improperly offered an alleged child molester a deferred prosecution deal because he bought her house. Happ has insisted she had no part in the case.

An attorney for the board, Jonathan Becker, said in an email to Happ's campaign that she did nothing wrong, that she entered into the sale before the case came to her office and that she wasn't involved in the case. The state Office of Lawyer Regulation concluded earlier this month that Happ properly recused herself from the case.


Happ to vote early in attorney general race

MADISON Democratic attorney general hopeful Susan Happ says she plans to vote early.

Happ's campaign issued a statement Wednesday saying Happ plans to vote at noon in her hometown of Jefferson. A spokesman for her Republican opponent, Brad Schimel, says Schimel plans to vote first thing in the morning on Election Day on Nov. 4.

Happ, Jefferson County's district attorney, and Schimel, Waukesha County's district attorney, have been locked in a tight race. A Marquette Law School poll released Wednesday shows Schimel slightly ahead. The two candidates were scheduled to meet in their third and final debate Wednesday evening.


Schimel slightly ahead of Happ in AG race

MADISON The last Marquette University Law School poll released just six days before the election shows Republican Brad Schimel slightly ahead of Democrat Susan Happ in the race for Wisconsin attorney general.

The poll released Wednesday shows Schimel with 43 percent support among likely voters compared with 39 percent for Happ. Two weeks ago, Schimel and Happ were tied with 42 percent each.

The poll's margin of error is 3 percentage points.

Happ and Schimel were scheduled to meet Wednesday night for their third and final debate before Tuesday's election.

Happ is the Jefferson County district attorney while Schimel is district attorney in Waukesha County.

The Marquette poll of 1,164 likely voters was done between Oct. 23 and Sunday.

 

Associated Press