Attorney General Brad Schimel launched his bid for a second term Thursday, touting his record on combating opioid abuse and human trafficking — but downplaying his political affiliation.

Schimel, a Republican, released an online video to launch his new campaign in which he characterized himself as “independent” and does not mention his political allegiance in campaign materials.

“During my time as attorney general, I’ve pushed for harsh penalties for violent and career criminals, and will continue to be a tough, fair and independent voice for Wisconsin families,” Schimel said.

Melanie Conklin, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, criticized Schimel for characterizing himself as independent, given Schimel’s strong Republican ties and record of repeatedly suing over Democratic policies from former President Barack Obama’s administration.

“Suprised (sic) Schimel didn’t return to Mar-A-Lago bash to announce his laughable ‘independence,’” Conklin tweeted, referring to Schimel’s previous support of Republican President Donald Trump, who owns the Mar-A-Lago private club in Palm Beach, Florida.

Josh Kaul, a Madison attorney and former federal prosecutor, is the only declared Democrat challenging Schimel. He does not mention he is a Democrat on his campaign website, and says he’s running “because he believes the Attorney General needs to focus on protecting Wisconsin families, not on partisan politics.”

Schimel spokesman Matthew Dobler said in an email that Schimel “has spent his career upholding the rule of law and his record speaks for itself. He will be taking his message to voters across Wisconsin.”

Kaul’s spokeswoman Ashley Viste said Schimel is trying to distract voters from his record on testing thousands of sexual assault kits that she described as a backlog, and said the state’s opioid abuse epidemic has gotten worse in the last four years.

“It’s no surprise that he’s trying to run away from that record,” she said.

The Nov. 6 election is for a four-year term leading the Department of Justice. Schimel was first elected Attorney General in 2014 after working as the Waukesha County District Attorney for seven years. Kaul is son of former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, also a Democrat.

State Journal reporter Bill Novak contributed to this report.


Molly Beck covers politics and state government for the Wisconsin State Journal.