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AG Schimel avoids GOP mention in re-election announcement (UPDATE)

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel addresses the audience that gathered in January 2015 for his inauguration ceremony at the Capitol in Madison. Schimel says he would support closing the state's troubled youth prison if corrections officials could find another way to handle serious juvenile offenders. Schimel's DOJ began investigating allegations of widespread abuse at the prison outside Irma in 2015. (AP Photo/Andy Manis, File)

Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel addresses the audience that gathered in January 2015 for his inauguration ceremony at the Capitol in Madison. Schimel says he would support closing the state’s troubled youth prison if corrections officials could find another way to handle serious juvenile offenders. Schimel’s DOJ began investigating allegations of widespread abuse at the prison outside Irma in 2015. (AP Photo/Andy Manis, File)

By TODD RICHMOND
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Attorney General Brad Schimel is running for re-election as a Republican, but you’d never know it from his campaign video or website.

Nowhere in the minute-long video, on his website or in his news release announcing his campaign does the longtime Republican and supporter of President Donald Trump identify himself as a member of the GOP. Instead, he repeatedly calls himself “independent.”

“Wisconsin has never seen an attorney general more wedded to the GOP’s extreme, anti-Wisconsin agenda,” Martha Laning, chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, said in a statement. “The idea that Schimel is independent would be funny if it weren’t so untrue.”

Schimel announced on Wednesday that he is seeking a second term in a year in which Democrats are banking that anger toward Trump will hurt Republican campaigns across the country. Josh Kaul, a former federal prosecutor, is the only Democrat to announce so far that he is running against Schimel.

The attorney general has supported Trump and repeatedly touted lawsuits he’s filed against former President Barack Obama’s administration. Last week, he joined Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

Schimel made no bones about his conservative pedigree during a speech last month before Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s largest business group and a staunch donor to GOP campaigns. He noted that he had recently met with Trump’s legal team and played up his lawsuits against the Obama administration. He added that Democrats planned to target his race and he’ll need the group’s help.

But he made no mention of his party affiliation in a news release on Wednesday announcing his campaign or in his campaign launch video, instead calling himself “tough, fair and independent.” His campaign website also doesn’t mention he’s a Republican. The home page, however, is emblazoned with the slogan “Tough. Fair. Independent.”

The Republican Attorneys General Association issued a news release on Wednesday supporting Schimel  and using the same slogan.

Asked why the attorney general doesn’t mention he’s a Republican, a spokesman for Schimel’s campaign, Matthew Dobler, responded with an email that didn’t provide an answer. It only included links to news releases touting a DOJ elder-abuse-awareness policy and a drug-take-back day.

Ashley Viste, a campaign aide for Kaul, said in an email that Schimel is trying to distance himself from his blatantly partisan record.

A spokesman for the state GOP, Alec Zimmerman, fired back with a tweet saying “everything looks less partisan when you’re running against Hillary Clinton’s attorney.” Kaul served as an attorney for Clinton during Wisconsin’s presidential recount, which confirmed Trump won the state.

Gov. Scott Walker, a Trump ally running for a third term in November, also didn’t mention that he’s a Republican in a video announcing the start of his campaign. The governor has clearly shifted his policies toward the center as the campaign season ramps up. This week, he came out against Trump’s proposed steel and aluminum tariffs.

Patty Schachtner,a Democrat, upset state Rep. Adam Jarchow, a Republican, by 11 points last month in a race for an open Senate seat in northwestern Wisconsin usually represented by Republicans, setting off alarm bells for the state GOP. Walker called Jarchow’s loss a “wake-up call for Republicans.”

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