Madison attorney Josh Kaul, son of former state Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, announced Monday that he will run for his mother’s old job next year.
He’s the first Democrat to challenge incumbent Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel for the right to run the state Department of Justice.
Kaul accused Schimel of using the DOJ’s solicitor general’s office to challenge former President Barack Obama’s policies in court. He also ripped Schimel’s decision to spend $10,000 on DOJ coins emblazoned with “Kicking Ass Every Day” and accused Schimel of not enforcing the state’s consumer protection and environmental laws.
“Values are critically important,” Kaul said. “We need to have an attorney general who understands the job is standing up for the men and women of this state, not to protect partisan purposes and political allies.”
Wisconsin GOP spokesman Alec Zimmerman called Kaul a defense attorney for liberal special interests.
“By contrast, Attorney General Brad Schimel has fought for Wisconsin families by improving public safety, upholding the rule of law, and stopping federal overreach from Washington,” Zimmerman said.
Kaul is a Stanford law school graduate and has worked as an assistant federal prosecutor in Baltimore. He also has worked for Jenner & Block, a Washington, D.C., law firm that focuses on corporate litigation. He currently works for the Perkins Coie law firm in Madison. His biography on the firm’s website says he has worked on cases challenging “restrictive voting measures” in federal courts in North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.
He was part of the legal team that bested Schimel’s DOJ in a case last summer challenging a host of GOP-authored election laws. Kaul’s group persuaded U.S. Judge James Peterson to toss out a number of the laws as unconstitutional, including restrictions on early and in-person absentee voting. Schimel has appealed to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Kaul also served as an attorney for Hillary Clinton during Wisconsin’s presidential recount, which ultimately affirmed that Republican Donald Trump had won the state.
Lautenschlager, a Democrat, served as attorney general from 2003 until 2007, a tenure marred by a drunken driving arrest in a state vehicle. She was appointed chairwoman of the state Ethics Commission last year but abruptly resigned Friday, citing unidentified factors she didn’t anticipate. The commission holds political candidates accountable for ethical transgressions and reviews their financial holdings.
The biography on Kaul’s campaign website makes no mention of her, although it does note he owns one share of stock in the Green Bay Packers and he took his 3-year-old son to his first Wisconsin Badgers basketball game this past season.
Kaul said growing up in a family that emphasized public service influenced his decision to work as a federal prosecutor.
Asked if Lautenschlager will be involved with the campaign, Kaul said: “Like any loving mother, she is certainly supportive of the campaign. … But I’ll be running my own campaign.”
State Journal reporter Mark Sommerhauser contributed to this report.