Wisconsin AG candidates clash on big issues

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Associated Press | August 15, 2014

MADISON — They both love motorcycles, earned law degrees in Madison and have spent years fighting crime in the courtroom, but those are about the only things Wisconsin's two attorney general candidates have in common.

Republican Brad Schimel and Democrat Susan Happ have vastly different philosophies, promising a far more intense campaign leading up to the Nov. 4 election than the sleepy Democratic primary contest that wrapped up this week.

"This becomes a race between a mainstream Republican and a mainstream Democrat," said University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee political scientist Mordecai Lee, a former Democratic state representative. "We're not getting somebody to the right of the tea party and someone to the left of the liberals. The voters ... will have to go to the second level and focus on the issues."

Both Schimel and Happ agree that first-time drunken driving shouldn't be a criminal offense — Wisconsin is the only state where a first-time offense is treated as a civil violation — but from there they're sticking to their party positions on most of the big-ticket questions.

Happ says she wouldn't defend a host of Republican-authored provisions that Van Hollen is currently fighting to preserve in federal court, including Wisconsin's gay marriage ban and laws requiring abortion providers obtain hospital admitting privileges and voters show photo identification.

She supports background checks for private gun sales — currently checks are required only when purchasing a firearm from a federally licensed dealer — and has said legalizing medicinal marijuana might make sense if it's tightly regulated.

"I want to be a champion and defender of the people," Happ said. "I want to defend their rights as well as their safety. I think the differences (with Schimel) are going to be real clear in that regard."

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