With the upcoming election closing in, it’s important to know who you’re voting for and their stances on issues that impact you.
Decisions made by the state attorney general will shape Wisconsin in a number of ways, including a woman’s access to reproductive healthcare, gun safety and public safety, and more.
Incumbent Democrat Josh Kaul is seeking reelection after nearing completion of a four-year term as the state’s attorney general. He faces Republican candidate and Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney in November. Here’s how each candidate’s leadership will affect your life and the lives of your friends and loved ones.
Since the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade in June, women nationally have been stripped of their constitutional right to reproductive freedom; in Wisconsin, an 1849 law that bans abortions is in effect. With abortion clinincs forced to close their doors across the state, women are turning to bordering states like Illinois and Minnesota to access these services.
Kaul is fighting to restore the right to safe and legal abortion access in Wisconsin and has filed a lawsuit along with Gov. Tony Evers seeking to block Wisconsin’s extreme 19th-century criminal abortion ban, which has no exceptions for rape, incest, or the health of the mother. Kaul also won’t use any Wisconsin Department of Justice resources to investigate or prosecute anyone for alleged violations of that ban.
Toney oopposes reproductive freedom and would enforce the 1849 ban, including prosecuting doctors who perform abortions, he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in May.
“If they need guidance or support, we’re going to provide that,” Toney said of using attorney general office resources to enforce the ban. “The attorney general is statutorily obligated to give that guidance to law enforcement and to prosecutors.”
In June, a Marquette Law School Poll of registered voters in the state found that the majority of these Wisconsites support abortion rights (58%).
On gun safety
In the wake of recent mass shootings in Texas and New York, gun safety laws are a critical issue in the upcoming election. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 500 mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year. A survey conducted by Marist Poll in June shows that a majority of Americans (59%) believe that controlling gun violence is more important than protecting gun rights.
Kaul has called for universal background checks and “red flag” laws, which would allow judges to seize guns from people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. Universal background checks would require sellers to run checks on buyers for most gun sales, including online, at auctions, or at gun shows. The Republican-controlled state legislature has repeatedly rejected Democratic attempts to enact these policies.
Toney opposes red flag laws, claiming that the policy “serves to restrict people’s lawful right to exercise their constitutional Second Amendment rights.”
A Marquette Law School Poll released in June surveyed Wisconsin voters and found that 79% supported mandatory background checks and 81% supported red flag laws.
On public safety
Last year, Kaul announced his “Safer Wisconsin” initiative, a comprehensive plan to invest $115 million into public safety. The plan includes investing in community policing and prosecution, law enforcement officer recruitment and retention, violent crime prosecutors and investigators at Wisconsin Department of Justice, violence prevention programs, victim services, treatment and diversion programs, a hate crime hotline, regional drug prosecutors, and mental health crisis response teams.
Toney has singled out Milwaukee County, proposing to expand the power of the Wisconsin DOJ by allowing the state attorney general to prosecute crimes in Milwaukee.
Current law places the responsibility for prosecuting local crimes with the local district attorney, while the state DOJ and attorney general are allowed to prosecute only certain crimes. These expanded powers would require the legislature to pass a new law.