- Associated Press - Thursday, October 16, 2014

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Republican attorney general hopeful Brad Schimel said Thursday he would devote state Justice Department resources to helping Milwaukee prosecutors go after gun crimes - if they agree not to drop charges in plea deals.

Schimel’s campaign released a statement citing a September report by conservative investigative group Media Trackers that found nearly half of the cases police referred to Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm for felon-in-possession-of-a-firearm charges during the summer of 2013 were never charged.

“If I’m going to reallocate resources to address this problem, we’re going to improve public safety,” Schimel said. “Does this means there are strings attached? Absolutely.”

Chisholm, a Democrat helping lead a secret probe into whether Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign illegally coordinated with conservative groups, responded that many arrests involve situations where “there was simply no proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” Josh Lease, a spokesman for Schimel’s opponent, Democrat Susan Happ, said Schimel’s plan appears based on sketchy information gathered by a right-wing organization. The attorney general shouldn’t tie local prosecutors’ hands, he said.

Happ, the Jefferson County district attorney, and Schimel, the Waukesha County district attorney, are in a tight race to replace outgoing Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen. A Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday showed they’re even.

Schimel gave an interview to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board later Thursday. He mentioned the gun plan but spent most of the session fielding a wide-ranging set of questions.

He told the board he would defend a state law that bans outside groups from coordinating with candidates. During a debate with Happ on Sunday he said he wasn’t sure - the law is at the heart of the allegations against Walker’s campaign - but on Thursday said he has to start from a position that all state laws are constitutional.

He also said he wished he hadn’t answered an interviewer’s question last month about whether he would defend bans on interracial marriage if he were attorney general in a state with such a prohibition in the 1950s. He told the interviewer he would be obligated to defend such a ban. On Thursday he called the question an “absurd hypothetical.”

Lease said it’s too bad Schimel feels embarrassed by his interracial marriage answer but it revealed he would defend extreme unconstitutional laws. As for his open records plan, Lease said Schimel sounds like he wants to be a “super-legislator.” Schimel has used the same term to describe Happ, whom he claims harbors a liberal agenda.

Schimel added that he was comfortable with his campaign saying Happ lied about a case involving an alleged child molester who bought her house.

Conservatives have accused Happ of letting the man off with a deferred prosecution because the sale helped her financially. Happ has countered that she screened herself off from the case and an assistant handled the matter.

Happ said during a debate with Schimel on Sunday that the case came into her office after the sale had been completed. It actually came in two months before the deed was transferred. Happ has said she misspoke and wasn’t familiar with the dates because she wasn’t’ involved in the case, but Schimel’s campaign says she lied. Schimel told the editorial board he doesn’t know if Happ lied but he’s fine with his campaign saying she did.

Happ sent a letter to Schimel Thursday afternoon accusing him of calling her a liar without any evidence and questioning how objective he would be as attorney general. Shimel responded with a letter to Happ saying she has “not been direct and honest with the public or the media” in the case.

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