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Mike Thurston Would ‘Invite Democrats’ to Train Waukesha Co. DA’s Office on Election Integrity

Mike Thurston, Lesli Boese.

This is story 3 in WRN’s 7-part series on the Waukesha County District Attorney’s race, based on the recent DA debate sponsored by the Republican Party of Waukesha County. Read parts 1 and 2 here and here.

Waukesha County District Attorney candidate Mike Thurston said during a June 19 debate that, if elected, he would invite Democrats to train prosecutors in the DA’s office on election integrity matters, a plan his opponent Lesli Boese called “silliness.”

Thurston said he would also invite Republican experts.

“This wouldn’t just be a Republican thing,” Thurston, a deputy DA in the office, said. “I’d invite Democrats too. They could come in. They could train us.” He didn’t name the experts who would get his invitations.

The idea of bringing Democrats in to train Waukesha prosecutors on election integrity generated a sharp rebuttal from his opponent in the race, Deputy DA Lesli Boese.

“This county needs a conservative candidate to run this office – that’s the bottom line. I am that candidate,” said Boese, who also hammered Thurston for five donations he made to Democratic DA John Chisholm, as well as other Democrats.

“Mr. Thurston says he wants to, for election integrity, he wants to bring in Democrats to help. Is it because of all the experience that they have without election integrity? That’s silliness,” she added. “We don’t need politicians to come in and tell us how to follow the rules. That’s called the rule of law. You read the statute; you apply the statute to what’s going on in the community. We don’t need people to guide us. We have the statutes to guide us.”

Currently, the elected DA, Sue Opper, handles election integrity cases, but Thurston also said he wants to change that. He proposed “taking the elected out of this,” meaning on election integrity cases. Boese slammed him for that position too.

“The DA is the elected official. We should make that call; the buck stops with me,” Boese said.

What both candidates agreed on is that election integrity matters.

“Election integrity is about a fair system, and if we don’t have that, we’ve got nothing,” Thurston stressed.

Both candidates were asked whether they would commit to enforcing election integrity during the district attorney debate on June 19. Both said yes. How they’d do it is where they differed. Their answers presented one of the sharpest contrasts in the entire debate, which was sponsored by the Waukesha County GOP. Mike Thurston and Lesli Boese are both deputy DAs in the Waukesha County office. Both are career prosecutors who are running as Republicans in the Aug. 13 primary.

What Else Mike Thurston Said on Election Integrity

Mike thurston
Mike thurston

Thurston said he equates election integrity cases to “domestic violence intimidation” cases, whereby a jailed offender starts to intimidate a victim out of wanting the case prosecuted.

“That’s what election integrity is; it’s an attack on our system of justice,” he said. “If we don’t have fair elections, we’ve got nothing.”

Thurston said that, currently, Opper handles all of the election integrity cases that come to the office. “It’s true I don’t have a lot of knowledge how to prosecute and investigate election integrity cases,” Thurston said, calling them “dearly, dearly important.”

He said elected DAs are “worried about being elected,” and he called for a specialized prosecutor position to be created in the office to handle election integrity cases instead and who “gets trained.”

“We have election integrity experts; why aren’t we relying on that?” he asked. “I’m happy to learn.” He said, “I would bring those experts into our office.”

He proposed the same for the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department, calling it “our biggest dog in the community” and asked, “Why don’t we have a detective devoted to that?” He said there should be both a specialized prosecutor and detective who “know how to handle these cases.”

What Else Lesli Boese Said About Election Integrity

Lesli boese

Boese said she has worked on an election integrity case before in the office and showed leadership on it. “I agree with Mr. Thurston that that is important,” she said of election integrity.

“In terms of having a special prosecutor, I strongly disagree,” she said. “The DA should have the special training,” she said.

She reiterated that she disagreed with Thurston’s position that the “elected person should be out of it.” Boese also said the Sheriff’s Department already has an investigator who works with the office on such cases.

She also said the “process can not be political.”

“We can not use what has been done in recent years, can not use prosecutors who abuse their power, and we can not use that to try to affect the elections,” she said, mentioning that “we saw that in the last six months. Democrats, Republicans, it does not matter. Everyone needs to play fair. We need to have reliable results in those elections.”

Boese said there needs to be training “before the ballot is put into the machine” to “make sure the person casting the ballot is a legitimate person and to make sure those ballots are filled out by legitimate voters. Those are the two areas we need to focus on that’s been a problem with election integrity in the United States.”

Boese said that, during elections one year, half of the DA’s office staff “went to the polls to see if there would be problems.” She said this should happen again. “That would be very effective,” she said.

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