The three Dem candidates for attorney general say they’d like to use the office as a bully pulpit to push for local control over frac sand mining.
The candidates stressed at a Madison forum on Thursday night the need to allow communities to balance the effects of mining with the economic benefits it could provide.
State Rep. Jon Richards of Milwaukee said communities in the western portion of the state are seeing a loss of local control in relation to frac sand mining. He called the decision to take away that control “wrongheaded” and said he would like to use the attorney general’s powers to challenge the move based on environmental laws.
Dane County DA Ismael Ozanne and Jefferson County DA Susan Happ agreed, arguing locals need more control because they’re in the best position to weigh the costs and benefits of things like frac sand mining, not the state government.
“I don’t think that job creation has to come at the direct expense of communities in which they are living,” Happ said. “(Communities) are in best position to see if harm to environment is worth the profit and job growth that will come out of it.”
The three Dems also tried to set themselves apart as the August primary draws nearer.
Happ led the forum off by emphasizing she is the only woman in the field and a Dem district attorney in a heavily Republican county who could win not only Democratic votes but also those from Republicans and swing voters.
“I carry a purse and ride my own Harley,” Happ said. “I have a proven track record of doing what is best for all Wisconsin citizens. I don’t play political games.”
She used public service as her main theme while listing off her qualifications that stretched from her upbringing in a home headed by two public school teachers to her work prosecuting cases as a district attorney.
Ozanne structured his remarks around his ability to be a strong leader as someone with close to 14 years of prosecuting experience and the only candidate to have major state department administrative experience in the Department of Corrections.
“The issues I will have to deal with are not theory for me,” Ozanne said. “These are things that I am working against on a day-to-day basis.”
Richards hasn't served as a front-line prosecutor, but emphasized his time in the state Legislature, where he has worked on legislation involving environmental and gun rights as well as equal treatment of women and workers. He framed himself as someone who would “be aggressive and lead with ideas.”
The questions in the forum varied widely from the effects of legalizing marijuana in the state to fighting for a higher minimum wage as well as the candidate’s taking their own stances on child safety in the Internet age and the best way to combat the greater role of money in politics.
While each candidate varied slightly with his or her answers, most responses struck the same chords of needing to increase the rights of middle class citizens and trying to change what they characterized as Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen's ineffective tenure.
The forum, sponsored by the Dane County Progressive Neighborhood Teams, never got heated and stayed generally respectful. The winner of the Aug. 12 primary is expected to face Waukesha County DA Brad Schimel, the only Republican registered to run for the office.