Wisconsin Right Now is endorsing Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney in the state Attorney General’s race because incumbent Josh Kaul has utterly failed on public safety, including on a critical promise he made in his first election to fix the crime lab. With violent crime skyrocketing in Wisconsin, the state can not afford another four years of Kaul, an Attorney General who is MIA on public safety but hyper-focused on partisanship.
In contrast, Toney has proven himself to be an ethical, extremely hard-working, public-safety-focused candidate and district attorney, who will remove partisanship from the “top cop’s” office by protecting the rule of law. At times, Toney has even drawn criticism from factions in his own party because he has so ethically adhered to the rule of law. This is incredibly refreshing. And it’s what Wisconsin needs.
Toney helped bring a drug court to Fond du Lac County. He started an opioid coalition with a four-pillar approach for harm reduction, education, treatment, and enforcement. He devoted more resources to domestic violence and sexual assault cases. He actively fought to change the violent sex offender law so that sex offenders can’t be dropped in communities where they aren’t from. When he took office, the office wasn’t operating within the statute that domestic violence offenders need to be charged within two weeks, but Toney brought the office in line to protect victims. He’s extremely accessible to law enforcement.
Toney is very accessible and transparent. In contrast, Kaul has been secretive. For example, he has outrageously and disgracefully sat on an open records complaint seeking his fellow Democrat DA John Chisholm’s non-prosecutions for more than a year and a half with no explanation and is slow-walking open records requests on serious issues until the election.
The majority of Wisconsin sheriffs agree with us. Prominent crime victims do as well. Those who have worked most closely with Toney – and with Kaul – believe Toney is the best choice. Toney has bipartisan support from the law enforcement community.
In contrast, Kaul has been a partisan barb-throwing AG, absent on public safety but always willing to give cover to his fellow Democrats. He openly admits that he sees the rule of law as something he will ignore if it doesn’t match his own personal political beliefs. That is exceptionally dangerous.
The contrast could not be more stark. We urge people to vote for Toney. Toney, a Republican, is a candidate with true cross-over appeal. Kaul is a divider.
When the liberal Wisconsin State Journal endorsed Kaul this week (predictably), about all they could come up with was that Kaul was “calm” and emphasizes rape kit tracking. Noticeably they don’t mention the key ways that Kaul has failed to preserve the public safety mission of DOJ at a time of skyrocketing crime. There are so many failures that an endorsement of Kaul is not defensible.
- Kaul’s crime lab has taken in far fewer cases than former Republican AG Brad Schimel, but is taking more time to test evidence in key areas. Kaul staked his last campaign on a promise to fix the crime lab. He’s made it worse. Even the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote in 2022, “Wisconsin crime labs took longer to process DNA in 2021, but caseloads are down.” The numbers come from Kaul’s own reports. Read more.
- Kaul has essentially defunded the criminal prosecution arm of DOJ by leaving key positions vacant. He’s tried to muddy up the numbers, but they came from his own administrator, who, by the way, Kaul settled with after she sued him for race and gender discrimination and civil rights violations. He left over 30% positions unfilled at one point in criminal litigation. Meanwhile, Kaul prioritizes creating a pricey equity position.
- Kaul has refused to release the numbers of backlogged child sex predator tips. Toney says he learned from internal sources that the backlog may exceed 1,000 tips, but Kaul has not responded directly on this question, releasing obfuscating statements instead. Read more here.
- Kaul was absolutely silent while Kenosha burned, even though he already knew that Jacob Blake had a knife when rioters, inflamed by the incendiary comments by Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, were starting arson fires. Kaul could have revealed that Blake had a weapon and called for calm, but he did nothing.
- What the State Journal reads as “calm,” we read as “inert” or “ineffective.” For example, Kaul has failed to build bridges with law enforcement in the state. It matters that Toney is endorsed by more than 100 police chiefs, sheriffs, DAs, and major law enforcement associations, whereas Kaul has almost none.
- Kaul has failed a prominent crime victim. That’s in her words, not ours. Maryann Gehring is the mother of Lisa Ann French, the little Fond du Lac girl murdered and raped by monster Gerald Turner on Halloween while trick-or-treating. It’s one of the worst cases in state history. When Gehring turned to Toney, he worked with then AG Brad Schimel to launch a new effort to keep Turner committed. That effort is still being handled by DOJ, but Gehring says Kaul has failed her, failed victims, and hasn’t helped her. That’s a big deal. Read more here.
- Kaul’s prosecutor made serious mistakes in one of Darrell Brooks’ two pending felony cases in Milwaukee County. These mistakes arguably kept Brooks free to commit the Waukesha parade attack. For example, Kaul’s prosecutor didn’t tell the judge that Brooks was a wanted sex offender at the bail hearing, minimizing his past record, and he did not file bail jumping charges or seek an increase in bail when Brooks committed two new crimes in two different states. Unlike DA John Chisholm, whose assistant handled the second pending felony, Kaul has refused to take any responsibility. Read more here.
- Kaul has said nothing about the violent killers and rapists who were released early on discretionary parole by Tony Evers’ two-time appointee. He’s said nothing about the fact that multiple murder victims’ families say they didn’t even know about the parole hearings. That’s a function of DOC, not DOJ, but Kaul has a bully pulpit. He should use it. We would like the state’s “top cop” to be a strong advocate for victims. We believe Toney would be one.
- Kaul has played partisan games on abortion and election integrity issues. For example, he once demanded a hand count to help Hillary Clinton in 2016, but now he thinks any election integrity issues are opportunities for cheap partisan flamethrowing. On abortion, he is putting his own personal beliefs ahead of the rule of law. Toney will not do so. He has stated repeatedly that he would enforce whatever the Legislature does on abortion; the AG doesn’t make laws. On election issues, Toney has struck a reasonable approach that follows the law and the evidence. While Kaul holds partisan, bombastic, evidence-free press conferences on the topic, Toney has argued against decertification of the 2020 election but does want election commissioners held accountable for allegedly acting outside the law. Again: It’s about the rule of law.
- Toney has a broad array of experience, both as a prosecutor and defense attorney. He is president of the Wisconsin District Attorneys Association and has been Fond du Lac County DA for about a decade. He has more prosecution experience than Kaul, who served a couple years as a federal prosecutor handling drug cases in Baltimore. Throughout the entire campaign, Toney has been a front-line prosecutor, delivering convictions in murders and other serious cases.
- Kaul got rid of an important gun tracing program that was used to match bullets at crime scenes to connect shootings. The reason was his office didn’t believe DOJ could meet federal auditing standards. Not acceptable. Read more here.
- Kaul doesn’t deliver results. He has emphasized priest sex abuse investigations, but little resulted. He has emphasized rape kits, but most of those were cleared by Schimel, and they only resulted in 6 convictions out of thousands of tests. Kaul’s office has shown leniency, and some of those cases have ended up a mess. In one case, Kaul’s prosecutor asked for a signature bond and probation for a serial sex offender who is already back behind bars. Read more here.
- The attacks on Toney have been cheap, misleading shots. For example, the State Journal says Toney prosecuted a voter for illegally using a PO Box but never explains that the woman is accused of voting in a county where she did not live. Read more here.
The evidence is overwhelming. Kaul has failed to protect the community. He has been an inept manager and a very partisan AG. Toney would be the opposite.
Vote for Eric Toney on Nov. 8.