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COURT GESTURES BLOG: Little to debate among Democratic AG candidates

By: Eric Heisig//August 5, 2014//

COURT GESTURES BLOG: Little to debate among Democratic AG candidates

By: Eric Heisig//August 5, 2014//

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Court_Gestures_WLJ-homepage_One thing became abundantly clear during Tuesday afternoon’s debate between the Democratic state attorney general candidates: if you don’t know who you’re voting for by this point, there’s not much the candidates can do for you.

That’s not passing judgment on Susan Happ, Ismael Ozanne and Jon Richards. Each has staked out his or her positions during the past few months in anticipation of the primary election Aug. 12.

It’s just that those positions – save for a select few issues – are awfully similar. And while they each tried to distinguish themselves during the debate held at the University of Wisconsin Law School, their differences didn’t lie in their positions on key issues.

All three candidates eagerly awaited their turn Tuesday to take a swipe at some of the laws passed by Republicans. Voter ID laws, same-sex marriage and environmental laws all came up for discussion.

But even Happ, Jefferson County’s district attorney, had to note how similar the candidates’ thoughts were on each matter.

“As I predicted, there aren’t a whole lot of differences between the Democratic candidates,” Happ said in her closing remarks. “We’re all good progressives; we want to protect consumers, our environment. We want to keep our children and our families and our communities safe.”

The only major issue that the three disagreed on was drunken driving laws. Ozanne, Dane County’s district attorney, and Richards, a state representative for Milwaukee, are in favor of making a first-offense operating while intoxicated charge a misdemeanor, while Happ believes it should stay a traffic citation.

I guess the only difference lies in each candidate’s experience. Ozanne highlighted his experience working as a prosecutor in a large county. Richards highlighted his time in the Legislature. And Happ pointed to her experience as a Democratic prosecutor in a Republican-leaning county.

That’s not to say nothing interesting came out of Tuesday’s debate, though. Richards, responding to an audience-submitted question, said he would “sue (Walker) to make sure he follows Wisconsin law” if the governor doesn’t enforce a state mandate requiring all employers to provide contraceptive coverage in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

And Ozanne, in a question about Civil Gideon, said he thinks that “even for those who have good paying jobs, (hiring a lawyer) is not something in today’s economy that can be taken lightly.”

Campaign finance records show that Richards has the most money of his two primary opponents, with more than $167,000 left in his campaign account as of July 31. Happ has nearly $132,000 left, while Ozanne trailed with less than $8,000 in his coffers.

The winner of the Aug. 12 primary will face Waukesha County DA Brad Schimel, who is not being challenged for the Republican slot.


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