Brad Schimel On Attorney General Bid

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Brad Schimel On Attorney General Bid

Premiere Date: 
August 15, 2014

Schimel, the Republican Waukesha County DA, will face Susan Happ in November.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

Meanwhile, there was a clear winner Tuesday in the Democratic primary race for attorney general. Jefferson County district attorney Susan Happ emerged with 52% of the vote. Milwaukee state representative Jon Richards took 33%, Dane County DA Ismael Ozanne drew 15%. We interviewed Susan Happ about her candidacy on a previous edition of "Here and Now." You can find that interview at wisconsinvote.org.

In our candidate segment tonight we introduce you to Republican candidate for attorney general, Waukesha County district attorney, Brad Schimel. Mr. Schimel, thanks very much for being here.

Brad Schimel:

Well, thank you for having me.  

Frederica Freyberg:

We wanted to ask you first of course why you want to be attorney general.

Brad Schimel:

Well, I saw a need when Attorney General Van Hollen announced his decision not to run for re-election, I saw a need for Wisconsin to have an experienced prosecutor at the helm. We've got big safety challenges in front of Wisconsin, and I've got the leadership to make sure we move the public safety ball forward and keep our families safe here. And the other issue is Wisconsin's been in a lot of turmoil in recent years, and I think there's a real need for an attorney general who's going to be committed to enforcing the law the way it’s written and defending our laws the way they're written. We can't afford to have a super legislator in the AG's office.

Frederica Freyberg:

How does your experience in the courtroom then as district attorney prepare you for this job?

Brad Schimel:

Well, you know, the attorney general isn't going to spend every day in the courtroom trying cases. Absolutely not. But they are the head of one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the state and they are the head of the public safety community, mostly figuratively, but in some ways literally too. Because the Department of Justice provides a lot of the resources for training and for boots on the ground help for local prosecutors and law enforcement. So it is important to have had that experience to be able to lead on those important issues.

Frederica Freyberg:

What is the most important issue, in your mind, for the incoming attorney general and the justice department?

Brad Schimel:

Well, right now the biggest public safety issue we face is the heroin and prescription opiate problem. It is the number one cause of accidental or preventable death in Wisconsin. It surpassed traffic crashes quite a few years ago already.

Frederica Freyberg:

So what does the justice department do about that that it's not already doing?

Brad Schimel:

Well, you know, local prosecutors and local law enforcement, they can't-- They don't have the time to take a 30,000 foot view, to work on prevention issues, to work on making sure we have adequate treatment resources around the state, to make sure that drug treatment courts are encouraged and up and running, and to make sure the right training is out there to make sure we can go after the dealers and get them locked up.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, Attorney General JB Van Hollen has defended many of the laws that have ended up in the courts, as you well know, everything from Act 10, same-sex marriage ban, voter ID and abortion provider hospital admitting privileges. Now you're suggesting, as you did in your first response, that you would have done the same.

Brad Schimel:

I would, and the answer should be from the attorney general that when Wisconsin law is under attack, unless it is clearly unconstitutional, the attorney general should defend it and let the courts interpret the law. That's their role. The executive branch enforces the law.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, other candidates, now some by the boards for this position, have suggested that the same-sex marriage ban is clearly unconstitutional.

Brad Schimel:

We don't know that, and we're not going to resolve this issue until it gets to the United States Supreme Court. And that's where we have to get. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has not so ruled. They ruled the other way. We're going to have to get to the US Supreme Court to decide the overall question, does the United States constitution leave the power to define marriage to the states. And that is an unanswered question right now.

Frederica Freyberg:

What have you seen in the current attorney general's office that you would like to change or improve upon?

Brad Schimel:

Well, there are going-- Some of the things I'd like to do is work hard to move the district attorney's program over to the Department of Justice. It's been at the Department of Administration where we're not a priority. I think we've suffered a lot as local DAs because we haven't been a priority. Whereas DOJ, they'd be a number one piece of the mission over there. One of the other problems is we need to fix the hygiene lab problem where we've got a huge backlog in testing of drugged driving cases, the blood samples for those. We've got to move those over and get those to a place where they'll be given a priority. We've also got to make sure we don't have any more problems like we did see in the course of last year with the internet crimes against children cases getting so far behind. Actually, it's been more than the last year. It's been a couple years. We've got to refocus efforts to that. We've also got to take this heroin issue up many notches to make sure that we get out in front of this as a state.

Frederica Freyberg:

Now, there's one place where you agree with your challenger and that is that first offense drunk driving should not be a criminal offense. Why not?

Brad Schimel:

Well, there is a subtle distinction between our positions. She has come out and said she believes it shouldn't be. What I've said is I haven't seen the evidence yet. And it's possible. We've got 49 other states that have made it a crime. However, we haven't as Wisconsin taken a look at those states to see if making that change improved public safety. There's not an unlimited bucket of money to go after these problems with and we have some things that we know work. We know saturation patrols work. We should continue in investing in those. We know alcohol treatment courts work. We should continue investing in those. Waukesha county is the home of the first alcohol treatment court in the state of Wisconsin. We know victim impact panels work. All those things are effective. We should continue funding those. First offense OWI would be a $100 million investment every budget. That's a lot of money that we could use on a lot of effective things. We just have to make sure that if we're going to invest that money that it actually makes a difference. So it’s a slight difference. I'm just asking the legislature to do the research, find out. Because every biennium we propose doing this and every biennium the legislature gets the fiscal estimate and they back away. If the evidence supports doing it, then we should do it and I will urge the legislature to make that investment.

Frederica Freyberg:

All right. Brad Schimel, thanks very much.

Brad Schimel:

Thank you. 


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