MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democrat Josh Kaul defeated Republican Eric Toney in Tuesday’s election to win a second term as Wisconsin’s attorney general in a race defined by sharp differences over abortion and attacks over crime and election administration.
Before The Associated Press called the race, Kaul declared victory with a lead of just over 1 percentage point, just outside the margin for a recount to be sought.
“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve as attorney general for the last four years and it is an incredible privilege to have the opportunity to continue serving over the course of the next four years,” Kaul said on the Capitol steps.
Toney, who told supporters around 1 a.m. that he had called Kaul to concede, didn’t respond to messages Wednesday.
The attorney general race was largely overshadowed by the race for governor and U.S. Senate but it was still a critical contest in battleground Wisconsin, one of the many states where both parties have turned to attorneys general over the last decade to challenge the other side’s policies in state and federal court.
Since Kaul won his first term in 2018, he has filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the state’s 173-year-old abortion ban, defended 2020 election results that showed Democrat Joe Biden won the state and joined a number of multistate lawsuits challenging Trump administration policies. Those have included a rollback of the Endangered Species Act and changes to the Affordable Care Act that would have removed protections for women, LGBTQ individuals and non-English speakers.
Kaul has questioned whether Toney, the Fond du Lac County district attorney, would use the attorney general’s office to aid a Donald Trump victory if he seeks the presidency in 2024. Toney has countered by portraying Kaul as soft on crime.
He attacked Kaul for delays in crime lab test results, pushing to end cash bail and understaffing at the state Department of Justice. He has called for getting tough on voter fraud and cracking down on crime in Milwaukee by allowing the attorney general to directly prosecute defendants there rather than leaving cases up to local prosecutors.
He also pledged to enforce the state’s 1849 law banning abortions. That included a call to allow district attorneys to prosecute abortions in adjoining counties before backing off that stance last month.
Kaul built his campaign largely around the abortion issue, touting his lawsuit to overturn the ban and promising that he would never use Justice Department resources to prosecute anyone involved in an abortion.
He said Wednesday morning that his push to restore abortion rights in Wisconsin was likely a major factor in the race.
“(Voters) want reproductive freedom restored in Wisconsin,” Kaul said.