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Rep. Richards joins race for attorney general (UPDATE)

Rep. Jon Richards

Rep. Jon Richards

By TODD RICHMOND
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Wisconsin Rep. Jon Richards announced he will run for attorney general Wednesday, promising to combat heroin abuse, violent crime and drunken driving.

Richards, a Democrat, has represented Milwaukee in the state Assembly since 1999. He served as assistant minority leader from 2003 until 2007 and currently sits on the Legislature’s powerful budget committee. He also works as an attorney.

“I bring experience as an attorney, as a lawmaker and as a team-builder, and I’m ready to tackle some of Wisconsin’s toughest issues,” Richards said in a statement.

Richards is the second candidate to enter the race since incumbent Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen unexpectedly announced last week he wouldn’t seek a third term. Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel, a Republican, announced his candidacy on Monday. Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, and Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, are mulling runs as well but haven’t made any formal announcements

Schimel’s campaign advisor, Darrin Schmitz, said in an email to The Associated Press that Richards would use the state Justice Department to pursue liberal political agendas.

In his statement Wednesday, Richards promised DOJ would continue to support local police and prosecutors. He said he wants to address the statewide spike in heroin abuse, the “scourge of violence” in cities and schools, domestic violence, apathy toward drunken driving and delays in the state’s court system. He also vowed to support open government.

He said he would support drug courts and other programs as a way to hold abusers accountable without filling up the state’s jails, but his statement didn’t offer any other specifics about how he might accomplish his goals. A message left with his campaign wasn’t immediately returned.

Richards’ plans closely mirror Schimel’s. Schimel has said he wants to attack heroin abuse by raising public awareness and has vowed to continue the Department of Justice’s relationship with local law enforcement.

Richards made no mention of Schimel in his statement.

“I’m running for Attorney General because I believe Wisconsin needs an experienced, independent leader who can set politics aside and focus on real priorities for our state’s citizens,” Richards said.

Richards grew up in Waukesha. He taught English in Japan, volunteered with Mother Teresa in India and has worked as a business reporter in Wisconsin and California, according to his statement.

Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, and Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association, are mulling runs for attorney general as well but haven’t made any formal announcements.

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