MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Susan Happ, a rural district attorney who rode a Harley-Davidson motorcycle in her only campaign ad, handily defeated two other Democratic challengers Tuesday to win the nomination for attorney general.
Happ, the Jefferson County district attorney, beat state Rep. Jon Richards, of Milwaukee, and Ismael Ozanne, the Dane County district attorney. She advances to face Republican Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel in the Nov. 4 general election.
“I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing … (talking) about protecting our families, protecting our rights and keeping the partisan politics out of that office,” Happ told The Associated Press. “I’m just really excited that message resonated and it’s going to resonate in the general as well. We’re not going to see a big shift in my messaging. I’ve run on what I believe in.”
Former Trek Bicycles executive Mary Burke easily defeated longshot candidate Brett Hulsey to win the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Hulsey raised almost no money for the campaign and was largely shunned by party leaders, donors and other office holders.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker was unopposed in the primary.
The attorney general’s seat is open after incumbent Republican J.B. Van Hollen decided against seeking a third term.
Schimel said in a statement that his race against Happ will give voters “a clear choice between two starkly different candidates.”
“We’ve listened over the past six months as my opponent has repeatedly indicated she would pick and choose which laws, and more importantly, which provisions of our Wisconsin Constitution she will defend and enforce,” Schimel said. “I will hold sacred my oath to defend our constitution.”
Mark Schaitel, a retired pizza restaurant owner from Madison, voted for Happ because he said he liked her position on wanting to rehabilitate drug offenders. But Schaitel and other voters said they had a hard time differentiating among the three Democrats.
“They kind of blend together,” said George Esser, 65, a retired state employee from Madison. He didn’t vote for anyone in the attorney general race.
Voters also were casting ballots in contested primaries in five congressional districts, more than two dozen legislative races, and the Democratic lieutenant governor’s race. Turnout was expected to hit only 15 percent, as none of the statewide races generated much excitement or interest.
The candidates for attorney general have struggled to differentiate themselves in a campaign where they largely agreed on most issues. Richards is the only one of the three without experience as a prosecutor. Happ is the only one who doesn’t support making first-time drunken driving offenses a crime, rather than just a traffic citation as it is now.
Ozanne lagged in fundraising, while Richards was the first to get on television with an ad touting his experience. Happ released her first spot a week before the election, showing her riding a motorcycle and emphasizing her experience as a prosecutor.
In other races on the ballot:
U.S. HOUSE: In perhaps the most hotly contested primary contest, state Sen. Glenn Grothman defeated state Sen. Joe Leibham and state Rep. Duey Stroebel to win the Republican nomination in the open 6th Congressional District which covers east-central Wisconsin. Tom Denow, a retired technical college instructor from Oshkosh, ran a distant fourth.
GOVERNOR: In the governor’s race, Burke largely ignored Hulsey and refused to debate him. Hulsey tried to draw attention to his campaign through a series of stunts, including promising to hand out homemade Ku Klux Klan hats at the Republican Party convention, but didn’t raise enough money to help get his message out or seriously contend with Burke.
Burke told the AP that nothing will change in her approach toward the election now that she is officially the nominee.
“I’ve had the same game plan since day one,” Burke said from Rhinelander, where she was campaigning. “That’s getting out and making sure the people of Wisconsin get to know me, the kind of governor I will be.”
LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: State Sen. John Lehman of Racine defeated Madison activist Mary Jo Walters in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor. Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch didn’t have an opponent in the Republican primary.
SECRETARY OF STATE: There was a Republican primary for secretary of state, and both a GOP and Democratic primary for state treasurer. But since both offices have largely been stripped of their duties in recent years, and wield little to no real power, the races generated little attention.
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