this combination of file photos are Republican Brad
Schimel, left, and Democrat Susan Happ. Schimel,
Waukesha County’s district attorney, and Happ, the
Jefferson County district attorney, are candidates
in Wisconsin’s attorney general race.
Democratic attorney general hopeful Susan Happ accused
Republican opponent Brad Schimel of backtracking on
whether he would defend a Wisconsin law restricting
political candidates from coordinating with outside groups
during their second debate Friday evening.
is at the heart of an investigation that prosecutors and
the state Government Accountability Board have launched
into whether Republican Gov. Scott Walker's campaign
illegally coordinated with conservative groups in 2011 and
2012. The law limits coordination between outsiders and
candidates, but one of the groups targeted in the probe,
Wisconsin Club for Growth, maintains that groups and
candidates can coordinate on so-called issue advocacy —
ads or communications that don't expressly advocate for or
against a candidate's election or defeat. The group says
the GAB is interpreting the law too strictly
said earlier this month that he would defend the law. When
a moderator asked him Friday if he would defend how GAB
has interpreted the law, Schimel said state laws enjoy a
presumption of constitutionality but state agencies' rules
don't. When agencies go beyond constitutional boundaries
he can't defend them, he said.
would not defend all of their decisions, no," Schimel
seized on that, declaring that Schimel had flipped on both
his stance on the coordination law and his broader
philosophy that the attorney general is obligated to
defend every state law.
I just heard him say was he would not defend that
law," Happ said.
countered that the question wasn't whether he would defend
the law but whether he would defend GAB's interpretation
can count on me to defend the laws and make sure
regulatory agencies don't go beyond the guidelines set by
the statutes," he said.
the Waukesha County district attorney, and Happ, the
Jefferson County district attorney, are vying to replace
outgoing Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen.
Polls show they're locked in a tight race. Each has
accused the other of being soft on crime as they scrap for
votes. Both candidates and their allies spent the hours
leading up to the debate trading attacks.
campaign issued a statement accusing Happ of going easy on
domestic abusers, saying she has allowed 13 defendants to
plead not guilty by reason of insanity. Happ's campaign
countered by saying there's been an uptick in mentally ill
defendants and a doctor and a judge signed off on the
went after Schimel for endorsing a Wisconsin Right to Life
white paper in 2012. The paper concluded that abortion
opponents should make sure that a 1950s-era statute that
made the procedure illegal except to save a mother's life
stays on the books. If the U.S. Supreme Court ever
overturns its Roe vs. Wade decision legalizing abortion
nationwide, abortion then would immediately be illegal in
Wisconsin, the paper said. Democrats said women should be
appalled at Schimel's position.
insanity pleas didn't come up during the debate. When Happ
questioned him on his abortion beliefs, Schimel said he
wouldn't defy Roe vs. Wade but is anti-abortion.