Wisconsin Senate and Attorney General Races

In prior articles I talked about selecting candidates for elected office with the ability to do a good job representing us. Like hiring an employee, voters need to look at the education, knowledge, work history, experience and skills of the candidates to make the best choice.

Employers also look at the attitudes and personal beliefs of potential employees. With the candidates discussed this week basic qualifications are not the issue. It is the attitudes and beliefs of the candidates that voters need to consider. There are significant differences in political and economic philosophy that will impact you, your family and the future of Wisconsin.

Kelly Westlund is the Democratic candidate for the Senate for northwest Wisconsin. Kelly is a graduate of Northland College in Ashland (given the rancorous atmosphere in Madison it is interesting that her degree is in Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution). She served on the Ashland City Council 2011-2014. Her work experience is in community and economic development and she was the Executive Director of the non-profit Alliance for Sustainability. She has three years of small business experience building a local food distribution system for community supported agriculture. For the last seven years Kelly has been the northern representative for U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin.

Kelly is a strong progressive and supports adequate public school funding, making secondary education more affordable, expanding healthcare coverage, supporting increasing minimum wages and increasing revenue sharing with local governments. On environmental issues Kelly supports clean energy jobs, investing in infrastructure to transition away from fossil fuels, and taking action to mitigate climate crisis. She supports a woman’s right to control her own reproduction and will work to codify this basic freedom into law.

Kelly is critical of Republican legislators for ignoring the many problems needing legislative action. The legislature adjourned March 8, 2022 and has sabotaged Gov. Evers’ repeated calls for special sessions to address specific needs.

Romaine Quinn is the Republican, and “conservative voice” for the state Senate. Quinn is a career politician. He began serving on the Rice Lake City Council while in high school and became Mayor at age 19. He served three terms in the Assembly (2015-2021). He is currently a real estate agent and a part time farmer. Romaine has a degree in Political Science and Public Leadership from UW-Green Bay.

Romaine presents himself as a moderate Republican supporting affordable healthcare, funding for rural public schools (while supporting school “choice” and vouchers). He supports investing in rural broadband, alternative energy, public infrastructure and job training programs.

Romaine talks about finding “balance” and finding common ground on legislation. But his Assembly voting record tells a different story. He supported all the destructive legislation of the Walker years. In 2016 a Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce score card rated Romaine 100% for his pro-business voting record. In contract Sen. Janet Bewley (the 25th district incumbent) was rated 6%. In the same year the Wisconsin AFL-CIO said Romaine voted “correctly” on only one out of of 16 issues important to working people. He voted against protecting women’s rights and equal pay, protecting the civil service system, expanding Medicaid, and for dismantling the non-partisan Government Accountability Board. Currently he supports the undemocratic Republican changes to voting laws recently vetoed by Gov. Evers. Romaine says he is a “proud” to be a National Rifle Association member” and is “proudly” pro-life.

The choice is clear. Kelly Westlund will work to improve the lives of people and Romaine Quinn will be a reliable vote for the destructive conservative thinking and polices of the past.

The attitudes and beliefs of the candidates for Attorney General are significantly different.  Incumbent Josh Kaul understands that, as the state’s chief lawyer, the Attorney General has a responsibility to represent the state, uphold all the laws and protect the rights of all the people in the state. His opponent, Eric Toney, believes the Attorney General is the state’s “top cop” and a primary role is to support law enforcement.

The State Attorney General has many responsibilities including litigating for and defending the state and state agencies. The AG has authority to prosecute cases with statewide impact but most criminal prosecutions are the responsibility of county district attorneys. The AG is not a police officer and an important role is to protect the rights of citizens from abuse by the police. Characterizing the position as the “top cop” is inaccurate and misleading.

Josh Kaul has extensive experience as a lawyer and prosecutor. He has degrees from Yale and Stanford Law School. He began his career as a law clerk for a U.S. Court of Appeals chief justice. He was a federal prosecutor in Baltimore and worked for a law firm in Washington, D.C. Born and raised in Oshkosh, Josh  joined a Madison law firm in 2014.

Josh became Attorney General in 2018. To reduce crime he has advocated for 70 new district attorneys and for increased funding for the justice system. Josh supports sensible gun control including background checks, prohibiting ghost guns, increasing penalties for repeat violators and for straw purchasing offenses. He has apposed Republican efforts purge voter roles, gerrymander election districts and weaken voting rights. He supports a woman’s right to choose.

Eric Toney is the District Attorney for Fond du Lac County (2014 to present). He has a degree from St. Norbert College in Green Bay and a law degree from Mitchell Hamline School of Law (St Paul, MN). Eric worked as an intern with the Fond du Lac County district attorney’s office. Prior to becoming the county district attorney he worked for a law firm in Fond du Lac.

Toney supports all the standard Republican positions on issues. He opposes federal and state “overreach” (i.e. regulation of business). He opposes any limitation on gun ownership. He talks big about voting “fraud” but has only convicted 2 people for the minor violation of using a P.O. box as an address. He will support the 1849 abortion law. He supports qualified immunity for police officers. We can expect no meaningful oversight of excessive use of force by police from Eric Toney.