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Josh Kaul Wis Politics

Democratic Attorney General candidate Josh Kaul speaks with reporters following a WisPolitics luncheon on Thursday, Sept. 6. 

If he’s elected Wisconsin’s next Attorney General, Democrat Josh Kaul said Thursday he will work to expand enforcement of the state’s environmental and consumer protection laws, as well as more aggressively pursue pharmaceutical companies that manufacture opioids.

Kaul, a former federal prosecutor in Baltimore who later worked on voting rights cases in private practice, is running against current Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel.

Kaul said the state is also not doing enough to improve school safety (“there is no long-term funding for more mental health programs in schools and that is a part of the solution”) and needs to do a “top to bottom review” of the state crime lab to ensure it is processing cases promptly.

Kaul, whose mother is the late Peg Lautenschlager who was the first woman to serve in the job, outlined his platform and answered questions at a Madison Club luncheon Thursday hosted by WisPolitics.com’s Jeff Mayers.

Mayers repeatedly asked Kaul how his mother informed his interest in the job and his approach to the law. Kaul avoided details, instead noting the influence of his entire family, including many of whom have worked in public service.

“Throughout her career, she did what she felt was in the best interest of the people in the state,” Kaul said. “That was something she was always very proud of.”

Kaul said that if elected he would be more aggressive about school safety and guns, including advocating for universal background checks and a ban on bump stocks. He said he would also support a red flag law allowing state judges to issue an order for someone to be temporarily disarmed.

If elected, Kaul said he would work to uphold the state’s legislative district maps, but noted the state’s process is “not as fair as it should be.” He said he does not fault Brad Schimel for defending the maps in court and said the position is meant to be independent and uphold state laws.

“Yes, you defend the state law — that’s the AG’s responsibility — but we can also talk about how we improve our system,” Kaul said.

He said the state should levy more fines against companies that pollute the environment and go after predatory, for-profit colleges.

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“We need to make sure fines are being paid as a deterrent so companies don’t reoffend,” he said.

Kaul said he would reorganize and restructure the Solicitor General’s office, which was established during Schimel’s term. The office, which has six attorneys including Solicitor General Misha Tseytlin, typically handles high profile, often political cases in state courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.

The cases that office takes are “highly partisan and are not serving the interests of Wisconsinites,” Kaul said.

He said he would keep the position, but reduce the size of the office and integrate it into the Department of Justice’s criminal appeals unit.

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Katelyn Ferral is The Cap Times' public affairs and investigative reporter. She joined the paper in 2015 and previously covered the energy industry for the Pittsburgh Tribune Review. She's also covered state politics and government in North Carolina.