Bruce Murphy

Kaul Defeats Toney for Attorney General

Incumbent wins reelection by tiny, 33,000-vote margin. Toney concedes defeat.

By - Nov 9th, 2022 08:53 am
Attorney General Josh Kaul. File photo by Emily Hamer/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

Attorney General Josh Kaul. File photo by Emily Hamer/Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Democratic incumbent Attorney General Josh Kaul defeated Republican challenger Eric Toney in a squeaker election. With 99 percent of the votes counted, Kaul had 50.6 percent of the vote, or nearly 33,000 more votes than Toney, according to results tallied as of 7:13 a.m. The Associated Press has yet to call the race.

Toney, who currently serves as Fond du Lac County‘s District Attorney, confirmed shortly after 1 a.m. Wednesday that Kaul had won. Toney said he “just didn’t see a pathway to victory, given what appears to be the limited number of votes out there.”

In a statement early Wednesday morning, Kaul wrote: “Earlier tonight, I spoke with District Attorney Eric Toney, who offered his congratulations. I want to thank him for running a hard-fought race. I’m grateful that Wisconsinites have put their trust in me to serve as Attorney General for another four years, and I look forward to the work ahead of us as we continue to deliver results and work to build safer and stronger communities across the state.”

Just as he did ion 2018, Kaul won by a smaller margin than Gov. Tony Evers, and may have benefitted from the governor’s coat tails.

But the race for Attorney General had big issues and big disagreements, with the two candidates slugging it out in a memorable debate. Toney attacked Kaul regarding the rise in crime, particularly in Milwaukee, and argued that Kaul had done a poor job of managing the state Department of Justice. But Kaul’s office released statistics countering Toney’s claim that Kaul had left many staff positions in DOJ vacant.

But all that might have been overshadowed by the issue of abortion. Kaul filed suit in an attempt to block the 1849 state law that bans abortions except when done to save a pregnant person’s life. He’s also pledged not to enforce the law. Toney said he would enforce it and that an attorney general cannot “pick and choose when to enforce the rule of law.”

Kaul noted that district attorneys currently lack the authority to prosecute cases outside of their home counties, but that Toney wants to let prosecutors cross jurisdictional lines to prosecute abortion, calling it a “far right, radical agenda.”

Toney responded that “I never made that proposal,” but In fact, in an October 14 interview he said “I think another approach would be allowing for adjoining counties to be able to investigate and enforce that abortion ban in Wisconsin.”

The two candidates also differed on gun control. Kaul called for universal background checks and “red flag” laws to prevent guns from getting in the hands of dangerous people. Toney disagreed, saying Wisconsin needs “to enforce the laws that we have on the books,” and added that he supports mandatory minimum sentencing for people convicted of violent gun crimes.

Prior to becoming attorney general, Kaul was a federal prosecutor in Baltimore before moving back to his home state of Wisconsin, where he worked in private practice at the law firm Perkins Coie.

Kaul is the son of former Wisconsin Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, a Democrat who died in 2018.

As attorney general Kaul clashed often with the Republican-controlled Legislature and that will probably continue during his next term.

Categories: Politics, Weekly

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