Van Hollen denies plans to run for higher office

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Associated Press
Wednesday, December 18, 2013

MADISON—Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said he doesn't plan on running for higher office or joining a private law firm after he leaves office at the end of next year.

Van Hollen, a Republican, told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday that he doesn't know what he'll do when his term ends. Van Hollen abruptly announced in October that he wouldn't seek election in 2014.

“I don't know where I'm going to be,” Van Hollen said. “I made my decision to depart on a wide variety of different issues but none of them were the fact I had something out there waiting for me.”

Asked if he might consider a run for the state Supreme Court in 2015, he said it was too early to explore or commit to anything. But he said he has no plans to run for a higher office such as U.S. Senate or governor—and if he did, it'd be better to run for a third term as attorney general.

Asked if he planned to join a private law firm, he responded, “Not really.”

Van Hollen was first elected to the attorney general's office in 2006. He made a splash early in his first term when he eliminated a backlog of evidence awaiting DNA tests at the state crime lab and easily won a second term in 2010.

He said in October he doesn't believe anyone should be attorney general for life. He hinted during Tuesday's interview the job was consuming him.

“To do this job right and to do it well requires a lot of attention, time and energy,” Van Hollen said. “With that comes missing out on family events, being there for your kids. It involves having something work-related on your mind all the time. I really, really want to focus on my family a little bit more.”

He said he surpassed his goals as attorney general by “10 times,” citing his efforts to eliminate the DNA backlog and expanding programs to protect children, including efforts to combat online child pornography, help children caught up in parents' drug cases and launch a heroin awareness campaign.

Van Hollen said he wants to see the state Department of Justice win its defense of Republican Gov. Scott Walker's collective bargaining restrictions on local public unions and the state's Republican-authored voter photo identification law before he leaves office.

Both the union restrictions and voter ID law have left Democrats outraged. Judges have struck down both sets of provisions in several cases in state court. The cases are now before the state Supreme Court, which is controlled by conservatives.

“One role (judges) should not play is second-guessing our Legislature and our governor, the representatives of the people, when they act within the lawful confines of their duty,” Van Hollen said. “I strongly believe that in the (union restrictions) and voter ID cases that they've done that.”

Three candidates are vying to replace Van Hollen: Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel, state Rep. Jon Richards of Milwaukee and Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne. Schimel is a Republican; Richards and Ozanne are Democrats.

Van Hollen said he likes Schimel but doesn't know enough about Ozanne's background to offer an opinion, even though DOJ attorneys faced Ozanne in court in 2011 when the district attorney challenged Walker's union restrictions.

Van Hollen said Richards, a legislator since 1998, lacks the law enforcement experience necessary to be attorney general and will have to run on other issues.

Richards' campaign spokesman Sachin Chheda said Richards has worked with law enforcement on drunken driving and domestic abuse bills. Chheda also accused Van Hollen of using his office to advance a conservative agenda, noting the attorney general had signed onto a multistate lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

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