Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen Wednesday endorsed Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel to succeed him.
Van Hollen told reporters that Schimel is the best candidate for the job, signaling the Republican establishment's support for the 23-year veteran of the Waukesha County district attorney's office.
Schimel said he planned to continue the agenda set by Van Hollen, including focusing on the state's growing heroin epidemic.
"I intend to continue many of the things he (Van Hollen) has done and give it a shot of steroids and step it up even further," Schimel said.
Schimel said opiate deaths have doubled in his county and now surpass traffic deaths. He said he supports proposals before the Legislature to combat the problem, including allowing trained first responders to administer Narcan, a drug used to counteract overdoses, and provide immunity for anyone who calls 911 to report an overdose.
Schimel estimated that law enforcement in Waukesha County spends up to a third of its time on opiate-related incidents including overdoses, burglaries and theft.
"The opiate problem is No. 1 -- no doubt about it," Schimel said.
Three Democrats also are running for the four-year post, including Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne, state Rep. Jon Richards of Milwaukee and Jefferson County District Attorney Susan Happ. Van Hollen is serving his second term.
In interviews before and after the news conference in Middleton, Schimel said he also supports possible changes in the laws mandating that 17-year-olds in Wisconsin be tried as adults but opposes legalization of marijuana.