Jon Richards Seeks Democratic Attorney General Nomination

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Jon Richards Seeks Democratic Attorney General Nomination

Premiere Date: 
August 1, 2014

The Milwaukee state representative is among the three in the Aug. 12 Democratic primary.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

Now over to the race for state attorney general. Over the past few weeks, we've interviewed Democratic primary candidates for that office, Susan Happ and Ismael Ozanne. Tonight, the third candidate running in the primary, state representative, Jon Richards. I spoke with Representative Richards earlier when I asked him why he wants to be the next attorney general.  

Jon Richards:

I think that Wisconsin's going through a pretty extraordinary time right now, and I believe we need someone with some strength and experience serving in the attorney general's office to protect our families, not only from crime, but also to protect our pocketbooks and our freedoms and the values of our state. And given my 15 years of experience in public life dealing with a range of issues that families are confronting these days, I feel like I have unique qualifications to bring to the job and serve the state that I really love and that's been home to my family since the 1880s.

Frederica Freyberg:

How does your experience serve you in terms of being an attorney general?

Jon Richards:

In terms of public safety, I've had a chance to work with prosecutors, judges and police officers on a range of issues involving public safety. And I've worked with Democrats and Republicans on a number of issues to move Wisconsin forward and to keep our families safer, on drunk driving, on gun violence, on juvenile crime. Those are all things that I've worked on over the years, and I think that's given me some good preparation for moving forward. But I've also had a chance to work with the legislature to bring resources into front line law enforcement. And that’s something I look forward to doing as attorney general. And finally, I've had a chance to work on a range of issues involving consumer protection, the environment, a woman's right to choose and voting rights, a whole range of other issues that I think are very important for Wisconsin, especially at this time in its history. I was one of the people that was very active in the move to block the marriage amendment that has now come under such scrutiny, and certainly as attorney general one of the things I'll be looking into is to make sure we move forward on marriage equality in this state.

Frederica Freyberg:

I understand that you do have some limited prosecutorial experience. You were a volunteer, kind of, in the Kenosha County district attorney's office and did some courtroom work. But in your mind, is that enough to be attorney general?

Jon Richards:

Well, I think to be attorney general you need to be able to stand up for people, and that's something I've been doing for 15 years as a legislator, for 20 years as a lawyer in private practice. And yes, I was a community special prosecutor with the Kenosha County district attorney's office. But I've also spent a great deal of time working out the details on civil rights, on the environment, on education, on health care, on a range of issues involving public safety that have prepared me very well to be the next attorney general.

Frederica Freyberg:

What is the most important role in your mind for the attorney general?

Jon Richards:

I think the most important thing that the attorney general needs to do is to keep our families safe. But they also need to keep families safe from people who want to rip them off and safe from people who want to destroy our environment, safe from people who want to degrade our civil rights. Those are all issues that are very important for the attorney general to address, and in fact, are before our attorney general this year in a pretty stark way.

Frederica Freyberg:

Would you make the public intervenor a position again in the attorney general’s office?

Jon Richards:

Yes, I would advocate for that. That's something that’s obviously a decision for the legislature, but I certainly favor bringing back the office of the public intervenor.

Frederica Freyberg:

As attorney general, as you know, Republican JB Van Hollen has defended many of the laws that have ended up in the courts, Act 10, same-sex marriage ban, voter ID. As attorney general, when do you get to choose which laws to defend on behalf of the state?

Jon Richards:

You look at the constitution. And to me, that needs to be-- That’s the guiding principle that I will use, I think that any responsible attorney general needs to use, when they’re looking at whether you’re going to defend a law or not. To me, the marriage ban-- the ban on marriage equality that we have in our state violates the 14th Amendment of the United States constitution. And I think that's important to recognize, and to make sure that all of our citizens in Wisconsin live under the full protection of the United States constitution that I'm sworn to uphold along with the Wisconsin constitution.

Frederica Freyberg:

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

Jon Richards:

Well, there are several things. Obviously, I think that the attorney general's office needs to do a much better job of standing up for people's civil rights and liberties. It needs to do a better job of protecting consumers, a better job of standing up for our environment. But also, there has been an issue of cases falling through the cracks involving people who prey on our kids online. And we’ve had a very serious lapse in that, and that's something that we need to improve right away.

Frederica Freyberg:

Would you continue to prosecute the Capitol protestors? 

Jon Richards:

Well, I think when you look at the limited resources of the attorney general's office, I think that doesn't seem to be a very wise use of those resources. I think keeping our kids safe is important. Keeping our seniors safe from scams and rip-offs and from abuse in nursing homes is also important. Those are things where it would seem to be a much better use of the resources of the Department of Justice.

Frederica Freyberg:

What's your position on criminalizing first-offense drunk driving?

Jon Richards:

Well, I'm for it, and I’ve actually I authored a bill that would bring that about. I think it's-- Drunk driving’s a very serious problem in Wisconsin and it’s something that we need to address in a serious way. Having said that, I think there are a number of things that we need to do to address drunk driving, including better funding for drug treatment courts, better alternatives to jail for people who are involved with drunk driving, and provide a holistic approach to provide treatment for people who have problems with drinking. But first and foremost, we need to be kept safe on the roads from people who are driving drunk.

Frederica Freyberg:

Brad Schimmel, the Republican candidate for attorney general, will join us for an interview Friday, August 15. Libertarian party candidate, Thomas Nelson, joins us next Friday. 


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