MADISON, Wis. — Attorney General Brad Schimel is running for re-election as a Republican, but you’d never know it from his campaign launch video or website.
Nowhere in the minute-long video, on his website or in his news release announcing his campaign does the longtime Republican and supporter of President Donald Trump identify himself as a member of the GOP. Instead, he repeatedly calls himself “independent.”
“Wisconsin has never seen an attorney general more wedded to the GOP’s extreme, anti-Wisconsin agenda,” Martha Laning, chairwoman of the state Democratic Party, said in a statement. “The idea that Schimel is independent would be funny if it weren’t so untrue.”
Schimel announced Thursday that he is seeking a second term in a year in which Democrats are banking that anger toward Trump will hurt Republican campaigns across the country. Josh Kaul, a former federal prosecutor, is the only Democrat to announce a run against Schimel so far.
The attorney general has supported Trump and repeatedly touted multiple lawsuits he’s filed against former President Barack Obama’s administration. Last week, he joined with Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in a lawsuit challenging the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.
Schimel made no bones about his conservative pedigree during a speech last month before Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the state’s largest business group and a staunch GOP campaign donor. He noted that he had recently met with Trump’s legal team and played up his lawsuits against the Obama administration. He added that Democrats planned to target his race and he’ll need the group’s help.
But he made no mention of his party affiliation in a news release Thursday announcing his campaign or in his campaign launch video, instead calling himself “tough, fair and independent.” His campaign website also doesn’t mention he’s a Republican. The home page, however, is emblazoned with the slogan “Tough. Fair. Independent.”
The Republican Attorneys General Association issued a news release Thursday supporting Schimel using the slogan as well.
Asked why the attorney general doesn’t mention he’s a Republican, Schimel campaign spokesman Matthew Dobler responded with an email that didn’t address the question. It only included links to news releases touting a DOJ elder abuse awareness program and a drug take-back day.
Kaul campaign aide Ashley Viste said in an email that Schimel is trying to distance himself from his blatantly partisan record.
State GOP spokesman Alec Zimmerman fired back with a tweet saying “everything looks less partisan when you’re running against Hillary Clinton’s attorney.” Kaul served as an attorney for Clinton during Wisconsin’s presidential recount, which confirmed Trump won the state.
Gov. Scott Walker, a Trump ally running for a third term in November, also didn’t mention that he’s a Republican in his campaign launch video. The governor has clearly shifted his policies toward the center as the campaign season ramps up and this week came out against Trump’s proposed steel and aluminum tariffs.
Democrat Patty Schachtner upset Republican state Rep. Adam Jarchow by 11 points in a race for a traditionally red open state Senate seat in northwestern Wisconsin last month, setting off alarm bells for the state GOP. Walker called Jarchow’s loss a “wake-up call for Republicans.”