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Wisconsin attorney general race heating up

July 12, 2021 GMT
FILE - In this Nov. 7, 2019, file photo, Wisconsin Attorney Gen. Josh Kaul speaks during a rally at the State Capitol in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin's race for attorney general is heating up, with Democratic incumbent Kaul officially launching his reelection bid and a Republican challenger reporting a record-high amount of fundraising for this point in the campaign. (Steve Apps/Wisconsin State Journal via AP, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 7, 2019, file photo, Wisconsin Attorney Gen. Josh Kaul speaks during a rally at the State Capitol in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin's race for attorney general is heating up, with Democratic incumbent Kaul officially launching his reelection bid and a Republican challenger reporting a record-high amount of fundraising for this point in the campaign. (Steve Apps/Wisconsin State Journal via AP, File)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin’s race for attorney general is heating up, with Democratic incumbent Josh Kaul officially launching his reelection bid and a Republican challenger reporting a record-high amount of fundraising for this point in the campaign.

Kaul quietly launched his reelection bid Saturday night, holding a small invite-only event at a Madison park and announcing his plans to seek a second term on Twitter. News organizations were not invited or told of the event beforehand. Kaul tweeted an image from the gathering, which was attended by about 50 people, on Saturday.

Kaul has been raising money and hiring campaign staff, so the official announcement was not a surprise. Two Republicans, University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Ryan Owens and Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney, are also running. Owens and Toney will face each other in an August 2022 primary.

Owens announced on Monday that he had raised $304,000 since getting into the race in April. He had $250,000 cash on hand. Owens adviser Zack Roday said Owens did not lend his campaign any money, a move sometimes made by candidates to inflate their fundraising totals.

Owens’ fundraising is the largest amount ever reported raised for an attorney general candidate in their first filing. The previous high was $194,000 by Republican Brad Schimel in 2013. He went on to win in 2014, but Kaul beat him in 2018.

The amount Owens raised is also more than any incumbent attorney general has collected in the first-half of a non-election year. Schimel raised $298,000 in the first six months of 2017.

Neither Kaul nor Toney have announced their fundraising to date. Kaul had about $234,000 cash on hand through the end of last year. Thursday is the deadline for candidates to file reports covering the first half of the year.

Kaul was first elected in 2018. In an interview Monday, Kaul said he was proud of his record on public safety, protecting the environment, election integrity and eliminating a backlog of rape test kits.

“Prosecuting the most serious offenses is my priority as attorney general,” Kaul said.

Kaul’s first term has been marked by contrasts with his Republican predecessors. Kaul has advocated for stricter gun laws including universal background checks, joined lawsuits against prescription drug companies, withdrew Wisconsin from a lawsuit challenging the federal health care law and worked to eliminate the state’s backlog of untested rape test kits. He’s also joined Democrats in calling for redistricting reform and fair election laws. Kaul defended Wisconsin’s election after the results were challenged by former President Donald Trump.

“We are going to keep standing up to defend the will of the voters in our elections,” Kaul said.