Attorney General Brad Schimel Claims Bipartisan Bonafides In Re-Election Bid

AG Points To School Safety, Opioid Initiatives, While Critics Say He's Too Political

Brad Schimel
Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel. Photo courtesy of BradSchimel.com

Over the past year, Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel has talked a lot about his department’s new Office of School Safety and it’s $100 million grant program.

“When the tragedy in Parkland, Florida happened, we had a plan and we were ready to work together,” Schimel said at a forum in Milwaukee last month.

He’s also touted the state Department of Justice’s work fighting the opioid epidemic.

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“And Wisconsin is leading the nation in our efforts to battle this opiate crisis,” he told cheering Republicans at the state GOP convention in May. “Other states across America are modeling their efforts after what we’re doing right here.”

Schimel, who is a Republican, has done dozens of public events on those two issues, which are both seen as fairly bipartisan.

During his campaign against Democratic challenger Josh Kaul, he has frequently touted his endorsement by bipartisan groups of Wisconsin sheriffs and district attorneys, which he says shows he can and has reached across the aisle.

“When you’re law enforcement’s choice, including Democrat law enforcement, I think that sends a message that they want you back in office, you’ve earned it,” said Zack Roday, communications director at the Republican Attorneys General Association, which has invested heavily in Schimel’s re-election campaign.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel speaks to supporters at a campaign event. Photo courtesy of the Schimel campaign

But not everyone agrees Schimel has kept politics out of the office. In August, 45 assistant attorneys general signed a letter saying the attorney general has been too political.

Dan Stier — who worked for two attorneys general, Democrat Bronson La Follette in the 1970s and Republican Don Hanaway in the 1980s — signed the letter. He said those who signed the letter have “seen a lot of AGs come and go,” but they’d never before felt the need to speak out against an incumbent.

“He has blatantly politicized the office,” Stier said of Schimel. “There’s no question about that in our minds. Everything is done for partisan reasons.”

Stier said examples of that include Schimel choosing not to join other states in suing the Trump administration over changes to regulation of for-profit colleges.

Others, including Kaul, are calling for Schimel to join other states that have sued opioid manufacturers. Instead, Wisconsin is working to get an out-of-court settlement from the companies.

Schimel, 53, has argued that option is quicker and cheaper for both parties.

“We hope that they’re going to see that and take advantage of an opportunity to have positive public relations by being part of the solution,” he told reporters in Madison in June.

The attorney general has also taken heat for a lawsuit he has involved the state in.

Wisconsin is one of the leads on a multi-state suit that seeks to overturn the Affordable Care Act, it’s a lawsuit Schimel has admitted would end the federal mandate for insurance coverage of people with pre-existing conditions. That mandate is very popular in Wisconsin. In the latest Marquette University Law School poll, of those asked how important it is to them that insurance companies be required to cover pre-existing conditions, 83 percent said “very important.”

But Schimel argues the ACA is failing, and his lawsuit would prevent what he has called “a slow bleed.”

“The ACA is falling, and it’s not anything to do with what a court does,” Schimel said at a summer WisPolitics event. “It’s failing. All of the promises that were made are not coming true.”

Schimel has also taken criticism from the left for some of his spending in office, including $10,000 spent on 2,000 commemorative coins for DOJ staff.

The coins, which read “Kicking Ass Every Day,” have received some national attention from the HBO show, “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver,” as well as attention at home in political ads by the Kaul campaign.

Schimel has defended the coins, saying they recognize the hard work done by DOJ employees and improve their morale.

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel, center, with members of law enforcement. Photo courtesy of the Schimel campaign

Throughout his campaign, the attorney general has focused on his bipartisan endorsements, public safety accomplishments and his decades of work in Wisconsin prior to becoming its so-called “top cop.”

He’s hoping that will be enough to win him another four years in office.