Rep. Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee, announced his candidacy for state attorney general on Wednesday, less than a month after current Attorney General JB Van Hollen announced his decision to not seek a third term.
A former community special prosecutor for Kenosha County, Richards said Wisconsin needs an attorney general to hold criminal offenders accountable and stand up for Wisconsin families.
“Someone that will be a guardian of good government — that’s something that we’ve been missing from the Department of Justice recently,” Richards said.
According to Wisconsin law, the attorney general is the head of the state’s Department of Justice and is responsible for giving official opinions to members of the legislature, protecting trust funds and certifying bonds, among other administrative tasks.
Richards also said his experience in several different areas of the state government would make him a good candidate for the position.
Richards said he would address the growing heroin epidemic, understaffed legal offices throughout the state and domestic abuse if elected.
“[The heroin problem] affects all parts of society and creates a number of other problems in its wake,” Richards said. “Rises in theft, sometimes an increase in violent crime, all have accompanied heroin use. That’s something we really need to stop and be tough on and get our arms around.”
Richards also said he would advocate for an increase in staff in district attorneys’ and sheriffs’ offices statewide.
He added he is proud to be a leader for providing better pay for prosecutors to keep retainment levels high.
“Now we have to have that same focus and energy on making sure that we have adequate staffing in D.A.’s offices throughout the state,” Richards said.
Mike Tate, Democratic Party of Wisconsin chair, said in a statement Wednesday he supported Richards, contrasting him with Wisconsin Republicans that he says are pursuing a “hyper-partisan” course of action.
However, Wisconsin Republicans said Richards’ support of the early release program, which they said would put hundreds of offenders back on the streets, demonstrated the legislator’s skewed priorities, according to a statement released Monday.
“Unfortunately, Jon Richards has demonstrated that public safety isn’t his priority,” Jesse Dougherty, Republican Party of Wisconsin spokesperson, said in the statement. “Wisconsin’s safety should never be compromised, and we can’t afford to go backward.”
Another potential candidate is Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, though she has not confirmed a run yet.
In a previous interview with The Badger Herald, Taylor said she was considering running, and was excited to see Van Hollen end his term.
A third candidate, current Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel, a Republican, announced his plans to run for the position in a statement Wednesday.
Schimel said the attorney general is a critical position that has the ability to address the heroin epidemic and Internet crimes.
“It is not a role in which someone can ‘learn while the earn,’” Schimel said. “I can immediately hit the ground running to fight these crimes.”