In the first debate in the Republican primary for Wisconsin attorney general, the three candidates advocated for tough-on-crime policies, restoring gun rights to people with non-violent felony convictions, making performing an abortion a felony and attempting to reshape the law through the U.S. Supreme Court.
At the debate, hosted by the right-wing legal organization the Federalist Society, Adam Jarchow, Karen Mueller and Eric Toney outlined how their handling of the role would differ from the incumbent, Democrat Josh Kaul. Jarchow and Toney are the two frontrunners and the pair have regularly attacked each other in recent months. Mueller has not drawn much attention, except for her extreme beliefs about the COVID-19 pandemic and work to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
The three candidates said that rising crime has to be a major focus of the attorney general and blamed Democrats for a recent increase in homicides in Milwaukee.
Jarchow, a former state representative who has never practiced criminal law, said the problem is prosecutors not putting criminals behind bars.
“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.”
Toney pointed to one of his major campaign ideas, allowing the Wisconsin Department of Justice to take jurisdiction and prosecute all crimes in Milwaukee County.
“Violent crime in Milwaukee bleeds across Wisconsin, and we need to be in control of Milwaukee to protect the rest of our state,” he said.
Jarchow said that if elected, he would take advantage of the conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court to work to fundamentally change the scope of American government.
“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,” he said.
Both Jarchow and Toney also said that if elected, they would enforce an 1849 law that criminalizes abortion except for instances of rape or incest. The law will go into effect if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, which it’s expected to do this summer. Kaul has said that he wouldn’t enforce the law.
The two also agreed that the state should consider granting gun rights back to some people with felony convictions.
“We have to be very careful about restoring those rights, because we continue to see criminals who are habitual offenders,” Jarchow said. “I hear from people who have committed nonviolent felonies from long, long ago … that would like to go hunting with their grandson. Is there a narrow way we can restore second amendment rights to folks without giving career criminals guns? Maybe.”
The primary election is scheduled for Aug. 9.
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