Republicans beat crime at major Wisconsin races; Democrats say they want to distract from abortion

Republicans are on the offensive in Wisconsin — conducting a “fact review” rebuttal from the state’s Democratic governor — while pressing what they see as an advantage on the crime issue and law enforcement support in the final weeks before the crucial midterm races there.

A recent spate of advertisements by GOP groups attacking Democratic presidential candidates has prompted a defense, as incumbent Governor Tony Evers works Tuesday to debunk a television ad from the Republican Governors Association that claimed its policies played a role in the release of hundreds of violent criminals by the parole commission. affiliated to the state.

Democratic activists say the conservative focus on crime is a distraction from other key issues that voters view less favorably, such as access to abortion after Rowe. Evers’ Republican challenger, Tim Michaels, opposes abortion in almost all cases. He said, “I’m a man of principles; my wife and I, we know we have to answer to someone who is higher than anyone else on the face of this earth. We are pro-life because of our faith.”

But a Marquette University Law School poll released earlier this month analyzing the Senate and governor races in Wisconsin showed that 61% of registered voters were concerned about crime. The case was ranked among the top five issues for voters in the state.

In response to the RGA announcement, which sought to link the Evers to the release of “more than 800 convicted felons,” “270 murderers and attempted murders” and “44 child rapists,” the Evers campaign said “of the 884 convicted felons released under the government.” The Evers administration, nearly half were released because their release was required by law.”

His campaign emphasized that in Wisconsin, “only the parole chair decides who gets out of prison on parole. The governor has no role in these decisions,” adding that the parole chair, John Tate, “never received a full confirmation hearing.” And that it was unanimously endorsed by a Republican-controlled committee on justice and public safety.

Republican Wisconsin governor candidate Tim Michaels, left, speaks as former President Donald Trump, right, listens at a rally on August 5, 2022, in Waukesha, Wisconsin.

Morey Gash/AFP, file

Regarding claims by the RGA’s announcement that the governor’s “liberal policies” have made local communities less safe, the Evers campaign noted that the governor signed a bill in April that would prevent violent criminals and sex offenders from being released early from prison in the future. Evers disagreed with Michaels, who opposes gun law changes including so-called “red flag” legislation, which would allow law enforcement to remove firearms from people they believe might pose a danger to themselves or others.

“It’s not the guns,” Michaels said in June. “It’s a cultural problem today. A lot of it is a byproduct of the entire ‘Defund the Police’ movement, where cops have become the bad guys.”

The Republican Party and their candidates from Wisconsin also highlighted two members of the law enforcement community who publicly stated that they did not in fact support Democratic Senate candidate Lieutenant Mandela Barnes, even though their names were initially submitted under a slate by the campaign separating officers. who supports it.

The names of La Crosse County Police Captain John Siegel — who is running for county mayor — and Racine County Deputy Malik Frazier were included but have since been removed by the Barnes campaign. The law enforcement coalition that supports Barnes now has 15 members, two of whom are active-duty mayors from Rock County and Green County.

Wisconsin has now reported that Siegel has been removed from the list. Siegel told the outlet that he has never endorsed the deputy governor and that he does not plan to endorse anyone in the state Senate race.

When reached by ABC News, Lt. Michael Lowell, a spokesperson for the Racine County Sheriff’s Office, said Representative Malik Frazier “expressed some surprise” when he saw his name on a list of law enforcement who supported Barnes.

“[Frazier] He stated that he might personally support Lieutenant Governor Mandela Barnes, but did not intend to endorse him professionally, and that professional endorsement was a mistake made by Barnes’ campaign.” Reply to a request from ABC News for comment.)

Photo: Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers speaks during an event attended by President Biden at Henry Mayer Festival Park in Milwaukee, September 5, 2022.

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers speaks during an event attended by President Biden at Henry Mayer Festival Park in Milwaukee, September 5, 2022.

Susan Walsh/AFP

The Senate Leadership Fund, a Republican-allied super PAC, recently posted multiple ads targeting Barnes’s support for repealing cash bail, a case its advocate says would remove the excessive financial burden on people accused of even minor infractions — but the GOP announcement claims it will release “criminals.” defendants in the community before trial.”

Maddie McDaniel, a Barnes campaign spokeswoman, told ABC News in response to the negative ads: “Ron Johnson defended criminals whose rebellion injured 140 police officers. He likes to point the finger at the crime, but then voted against police funding. “. Whereas Governor Barnes and Governor Evers have already invested in public safety and law enforcement.”

Some outside Democratic strategists have described Republican crime-focused ads as “fear promotion” and a distraction from their other weaknesses along the way.

“There is no doubt about that [Republicans] “They want people to be scared,” said Democratic strategist Joe Zibecki, adding, “They’re trying to create an alternative environment that they think is best for them politically. But we know that the biggest story in American politics this year is the attack on women’s reproductive freedom.”

A new Spectrum News/Siena College poll released this week shows Evers a 5-point lead over Michels in a race FiveThirtyEight says he favors Evers. The Spectrum/Siena poll also asked voters what they thought of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June ruling that struck down Roe v. Wade, with 72% of Wisconsin residents surveyed saying they wanted a new abortion law in the state in exchange for relying on the state’s “1849” law. Which bans the procedure on a large scale.

Photo: Senator Ron Johnson speaks to reporters as he walks to the Senate floor during the vote on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 8, 2022.

Senator Ron Johnson speaks to reporters as he walks to the Senate floor during voting on Capitol Hill in Washington, September 8, 2022.

Tom Brenner/Reuters

In a poll conducted by Marquette Law School last week, 51% of Wisconsin voters surveyed said incumbent Republican Senator Ron Johnson “doesn’t share their values” versus 41% for Lt. Gov. Barnes.

Zepecki, the strategist, said he thought “nobody buys” that Evers “just tossed open a prison cell or took people to the streets. That’s crazy.”

As for the two law enforcement members who were removed from Barnes’ endorsement list, Zybecki said he doesn’t expect it to negatively affect a relatively small share of Wisconsin’s undecided voters.

“I think that’s a lot of ado about nothing,” he said. “These are the things that happen when you have campaigns trying to do 7,000 things with not enough staff and not enough time before Election Day, so I find it hard to believe that this should change anyone’s mind about this election, in particular. We’re talking about really hesitant voters.”

Alec Zimmerman, Johnson’s campaign spokesman, had another opinion: “Mandela Barnes can’t even tell the truth about who’s supporting his campaign – voters shouldn’t believe a word that comes out of his mouth.”

Johnson’s campaign on Wednesday announced a bipartisan coalition of 51 mayors who endorsed him.

ABC News’s Hannah Demissie contributed to this report.

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