Schimel, Kaul debate drugs, school safety and Foxconn

MILWAUKEE, Wis. (WBAY) - Attorney General Brad Schimel and Democratic challenger Josh Kaul sat down for a one-hour debate with "UpFront" host Mike Gousha at Marquette University Law School in Milwaukee Saturday night.

Kaul accused Schimel of partisan decisions that put politics and special interests first, and arguing the Department of Justice needs new leadership to put the interests of the public in front.

Schimel touted his accomplishments as both a state attorney general and a county district attorney that helped people in Wisconsin.

Kaul said Schimel was late to the fight against opioid abuse and faulted Schimel for not advocating for Medicare expansion that would help with drug treatment.

Schimel said the drug problem shifted in the past few years from heroin to abusing prescription drugs. Schimel pointed to the drug treatment court program he started in Waukesha County and a statewide drug take-back program to get help prevent abuse.

In November, voters in several counties will be asked a non-binding referendum about legalizing marijuana. Schimel doesn't agree with legalizing marijuana, arguing, "We have enough people driving drunk on the roads from alcohol. We don't need to add more people under the influence of marijuana." Kaul limited his support to medical uses, saying states with medicinal marijuana laws have seen opioid abuse go down.

Both agreed on the need to improve school safety but disagreed on the ways to accomplish it.

Kaul said the state needs an attorney general to advocate for "common sense gun laws like universal background checks or a ban on bump stocks." He opposes any effort to arm teachers. "The people who should have firearms near schools are police officers."

Schimel responded, "Those are all legislative determinations." He said whether to arm teachers should be a local decision and not dictated by the state. Schimel pointed to the Department of Justice program that distributed $100 million in grants that let eligible schools upgrade building security and start counseling programs for at-risk students. "We're the only state doing this," he said.

The political lines in the partisan attorney general election were especially clear on issues like voter ID and the Wisconsin's lawsuits against the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.

Schimel disputed the claim that Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare would hurt people with pre-existing conditions. "Wisconsin covered pre-existing conditions in our health system before Obamacare destroyed it," Schimel said. "Obama's claim if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor was the PolitiFact 'Lie of the Year.'"

"(Schimel) didn't have any hesitation to sue to prevent people from pre-existing conditions from being protected. He didn't have any hesitation to sue to prevent middle-class Wisconsinites who put in the hours from getting overtime pay. This is where we've seen the interests of special interests put ahead of working people," Kaul said.

When the issue of Foxconn came up, and potential issues with what's promised to be a major Wisconsin employer, both candidates seemed to agree on the attorney general's role... but not who should fill that role.

"If Foxconn comes back to the table to renegotiate the contract or get better terms, we need an AG who will make sure the interests of the state are put first," Kaul said.

"You have one," Schimel interjected.


MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Democratic attorney general hopeful Josh Kaul is tweaking Republican incumbent Brad Schimel for taking too long to test thousands of unanalyzed sexual assault kits during their first debate.

The state Department of Justice received federal grants to begin testing thousands of kits sitting on police and hospital shelves in 2015. Testing wasn't complete until this September. Schimel says it took time to inventory the kits and find private labs with capacity to test them.

Kaul began a debate with Schimel on Friday by accusing him of mishandling the kits and allowing dangerous criminals to roam the streets when they could have been identified sooner through the testing. He also chided Schimel for spending money on DOJ promotional material rather than prioritizing the kits.

Schimel countered that the testing is done and he solved a decades-long problem in three years. He also said he has reduced the threshold for spending on promotional items.

Kaul accuses Schimel of taking too long to test sexual assault kits, not doing enough to curb opioid abuse or improve school safety. Schimel paints Kaul as inexperienced outsider, keying on Kaul's East Coast background.

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