FOND DU LAC (NBC 26) — Republican candidate for attorney general Eric Toney says he's "law enforcement's choice." Toney is the Fond du Lac County District Attorney.
In an exclusive interview with NBC 26, he explained how his allegiance to law enforcement informed his choice to run for office. He said he made the decision to run for attorney general because he believes incumbent Democrat Josh Kaul didn't do enough to support law enforcement during the aftermath of the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha.
“He said something to the effect of we're not going to take sides," Toney said. "And this is personal to me. My dad spent over 30 years as a police officer here in Fond du Lac County. I know what it's like to worry about my dad's safety growing up."
Toney said a major problem in the state is a shortage of prosecutors.
"It's specific to our Department of Justice," Toney said. "If we have less resources there, it makes it more difficult for district attorneys and local law enforcement because we rely on those prosecutors. If a district attorney's office has a conflict on a case, the Attorney General's office might be the go-to to try and take on those types of cases."
In addition to hiring more prosecutors, Toney wants the Attorney General's Office to take over prosecuting some cases in Milwaukee County. He said this is in response to the county's high crime rate.
"We need to give our Attorney General's Office original prosecution authority over Milwaukee County to augment the Milwaukee DA’s office, not take over, but add additional resources. Because then we can take on cases that they're unable or unwilling to prosecute because, as goes Milwaukee generally goes Wisconsin," Toney said.
When asked if this could conflict with traditional Republican principles of local control, Toney said safety needs to be a priority.
"I'm talking about public safety," Toney said. "Our Department of Justice has prosecutors, they have DCI agents that assist local law enforcement now and that's what we want to be able to do. Expand that out."
After Roe vs. Wade was overturned in June, Wisconsin's 1849 ban on abortion went into effect, which Toney said he plans to enforce. His opponent Josh Kaul has filed a lawsuit to block the ban. Current law has an exception for the life of the mother.
"The job of the attorney general, just like district attorneys, is to enforce the rule of law," Toney said. "We don't pick and choose when to enforce the rule of law."
When asked whether he would prosecute doctors performing abortions in cases of rape, incest, or health of the mother, Toney said he trusts state prosecutors to make decisions on a case-by-case basis.
“I trust our prosecutors to use that discretion to make sure that we are protecting moms and women here in Wisconsin, and taking things on a case by case basis," Toney said. "Because I don't think you're going to see, you know, there's this misconception where somebody will talk about if a law is enforced…it doesn't always mean someone's arrested. That doesn't always mean somebody's going to jail. It doesn't even always mean that somebody is convicted of something.”
Republican candidate for governor Tim Michels has said he believes there was fraud in the 2020 election, echoing claims made by former president Donald Trump.
"I've been the most vocal statewide Republican candidate that we cannot and should not decertify the election here in Wisconsin," Toney said. "And I've said there's no widespread voter fraud that would have overturned the results. However, I am prosecuting people that have broken our election laws here in Wisconsin because we still have to hold people accountable if they're breaking the law, to ensure that we protect the integrity of our electoral process, which is the cornerstone of our republic in our democracy."
If elected, Toney could either work alongside incumbent Democratic Governor Tony Evers or Republican challenger Tim Michels.
"It doesn't matter who the governor is. To me, we follow the rule of law," Toney said. "There will be challenges with anybody. And certainly you may agree more with somebody that has the same political preferences. But at the end of the day, we enforce the rule of law, not political preferences."
Toney has served as Fond du Lac District Attorney since 2013, and is currently president of the Wisconsin District Attorney's Association.
The Wisconsin 2022 general election is Tuesday, November 8.