WAUKESHA, Wis. (AP) — Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel formally announced Monday he will run for Wisconsin attorney general, saying he has honed the skills he'll need in the position and is ready to push back hard against rampant heroin addiction.
Schimel, a Republican, is the first candidate to officially enter the race since incumbent Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen unexpectedly announced last week he would not seek re-election next year. Democratic state Reps. Chris Taylor and Jon Richards are contemplating running. Wisconsin Professional Police Association Executive Director Jim Palmer says he's considering running as an independent.
Schimel made his announcement during a news conference on the steps of the Waukesha County courthouse flanked by his wife, his two daughters and a group of uniformed police officers from a number of southeastern Wisconsin agencies. The district attorney made no mention of any of his potential opponents, instead stressing that his prosecutorial experience would enable him to slide easily into the attorney general's office.
"My record reflects that I am tough and I am fair," Schimel said.
His chief goal is to slow the spread of heroin in the state as prescription drug addicts search for cheaper fixes, he said. The number of heroin-related arrests statewide has risen from 267 in 2008 to 673 last year, a 152 percent increase, according to state Justice Department statistics. Police made 408 arrests during the first six months of this year alone, according to DOJ data.
Schimel described heroin use in Wisconsin as a crisis that could overwhelm law enforcement and prosecutors. He said he wants to "inject steroids" into a public awareness campaign DOJ launched last month. He offered few specifics, but he said he wants to reach out to doctors and encourage them to find other ways to treat patients' pain without prescribing opiates, which can lead to addiction and force users to turn to heroin when their prescriptions run out. He wants to tell doctors to ask patients about their alcohol use because alcohol addiction is a good indicator of whether someone might grow addicted to drugs, he said.
Schimel also wants to reach out to schools and ask them to teach students about the dangers of heroin and find ways to ensure addicts who end up behind bars don't turn back to the drug when they get out. He doesn't have any plans to hire additional state agents to combat the problem, however, saying local police are the ones making the arrests. He promised DOJ would continue to support them.
Schimel said he doesn't plan to use his position to file politically-motivated lawsuits. Asked if he might try to challenge President Barack Obama's signature health care reforms, he said the U.S. Supreme Court has approved them and he has no plans to fight them.
Schimel has spent nearly seven years as Waukesha County's district attorney and 16 as an assistant district attorney. He also currently serves as a member of the Wisconsin Crime Victim Council, which advises the attorney general on victims' rights, and as a criminal justice instructor at Waukesha County Technical College. He has conducted more than 150 jury trials, according to his campaign.
He also plays bass guitar in a classic rock band called "4 On the Floor" and is an avid Harley-Davidson motorcycle rider.