New Attorney General candidate Adam Jarchow raised zero dollars in his first campaign finance report, deleted a childish website he created painting his Republican opponent as a marionette, said police reform is probably needed in Milwaukee, and once pushed a bill with liberal Democrats to decriminalize some possession of marijuana cases and argued to legalize the drug. We think there’s an even bigger problem, though: He’s never prosecuted a criminal case.
There’s a new Republican candidate for state Attorney General and, as with Professor Ryan Owens, Adam Jarchow has never handled a single criminal case in Wisconsin, according to a review of online court records. He’s tweeted, “Running DOJ has nothing to do with courtroom experience” before scrubbing his Twitter account, and a Madison newspaper reported that he doesn’t think Republicans should define the state’s top law enforcement official (Attorney General) as the state’s top cop.
Here’s why he’s wrong – if Republicans want to win.
We aren’t saying that the AG should ONLY focus on public safety matters. There’s clearly an imperative for the AG to fight for our freedoms and other critically important issues. What we are saying, though, is that it would be a fatal mistake for Republicans to choose a nominee with no criminal prosecution experience at all. It would play right into Democratic AG Josh Kaul’s hands. Do Republicans want to win this position or not? Sometimes we wonder…
In contrast, Republican candidate Eric Toney has been Fond du Lac County DA for 10 years, and he’s endorsed by more than 90 current and retired sheriffs, police chiefs, and district attorneys, as well as major law enforcement associations, more than Kaul and Jarchow. Toney, a Republican since college, is president-elect of the Wisconsin District Attorney’s Association. He’s running a campaign with a strong public safety message, saying, “As a front-line prosecutor, it’s critical we have an attorney general who’ll support law enforcement and has firsthand experience fighting crime.”
We think Kaul and his machine wouldn’t know what playbook to run against Toney; in contrast, Jarchow’s history of bombastic and intemperate statements alone could, we fear, harm even the Republican campaign for governor by becoming a legacy media distraction.
Adam Jarchow trashed Toney for being a “career government lawyer,” as if being an elected DA putting violent criminals away is somehow a negative (former Republican AG Brad Schimel, by that standard, was a “career government lawyer.”)
Adam Jarchow has no criminal court experience as either a prosecutor or a defense attorney (Toney has done both). We ran Jarchow’s state bar ID in CCAP. The Polk County lawyer has handled civil, small claims, probate and a couple forfeiture cases. We get five pages of such entries. Two non-criminal cases come up under his name in Wisconsin appellate court records. Oddly, Adam Jarchow launched his campaign for AG by touting another guy who has almost no criminal court experience and after supporting Owens, who had rarely been in a courtroom and sounded less conservative on podcasts than the campaign trail.
When we search Toney’s state bar ID, we get 76 pages of cases under party attorney, and 154 pages of cases, including serious felonies, as a prosecuting attorney. We get 599 cases for Toney under Wisconsin appellate courts.
ALL candidates elected as Wisconsin Attorney General in the last 58 years were former prosecutors. Voters often prefer conservatives in the position when it’s defined as the “top cop” (just ask Schimel or Republican J.B. Van Hollen) and that’s especially true in an era in which liberals are pushing to defund police departments, not prosecute crimes, and abolish cash bail during historic violent crime spikes.
These issues matter to voters, including moderates; they need to be raised by a candidate with credibility in those areas. Politics is a game of definition. Who defines the office, wins.
If Republicans define the office through a public safety lens, they gain an inherent advantage. That’s especially true when the Democratic incumbent, Kaul, has failed so miserably at the DOJ’s public safety mandate, mismanaging the state crime lab (see our investigative piece on that here), eliminating a gun tracing program, and being completely MIA on the Kenosha riots, among other public safety-related failures.
An attorney general with actual extensive criminal prosecution experience is likely to better understand the issues that prosecutors and police face in the trenches; they would prioritize the significance of the state crime lab, for starters, unlike Kaul.
History would predict that a prosecutor has the best chance at winning the position. Consider the backgrounds of all Wisconsin AGs since the 1960s. They were ALL former prosecutors. Even Kaul had SOME prosecution experience, although it was meager. When even Kaul had more criminal court experience going into the job than Jarchow has, the problem becomes obvious.
Josh Kaul – assistant US attorney in Baltimore for four years
Brad Schimel – Waukesha County DA
JB Van Hollen – Bayfield and Ashland County DA, US Attorney
Peg Lautenschlager (Kaul’s mom) – Winnebago County DA, US Attorney
Jim Doyle – Dane County DA
Don Hanaway – Assistant Brown County DA and DePere City Attorney and mayor. Assistant minority leader in state Senate
Bronson LaFollette – assistant US Attorney
Victor Miller – wasn’t a former prosecutor but he only served for a little over a month in 1974 as interim AG, so not counting him
Robert Warren – Brown County DA
George Thompson – LaCrosse County DA (that gets you to 1963)
John W. Reynolds – not a prosecutor but was a WW2 veteran who was a court commissioner first.
Adam Jarchow’s Response
We gave Jarchow a chance to explain all of this, asking him: “How would you get around the fact you’ve never handled a criminal case as a prosecutor or lawyer? Wouldn’t that (Democratic incumbent AG Josh) Kaul ad run itself? Isn’t defining the position as the top cop how Republicans typically win it so why do you want to change that definition? Do you think Toney would be better than Kaul?”
His response was to compare one of Wisconsin Right Now’s journalists to “Baghdad Bob” and to launch into more broadsides against Toney.
We tried again, writing, “You didn’t answer my question. You’ve never prosecuted or handled as a lawyer a single criminal case. How would you win the AG race in light of that fact? Wouldn’t Kaul exploit that fact endlessly?”
Jarchow responded: “In the past 20 years, the AG has prosecuted 1 case. I think you misunderstand the job of the AG. My 15 years experience as an attorney and experience as a legislator and small businessman is far more relevant experience to running a huge agency like DOJ than a career government employee like Toney. I’d beat Josh Kaul like a drum. It wouldn’t even be a fair fight.”
We understand the job very well; the AG’s office has a LOT to do with law enforcement, prosecutors, crime victims, and public safety. The Attorney General presides over the state crime lab and a Division of Criminal Investigation, criminal appeals, works with law enforcement, sets policy and handles a host of issues relating to public safety, including:
Division of law enforcement services (training standards, criminal information bureau, concealed carry, training standards, etc.)
Division of Criminal Investigation
Division of Forensic Services (crime lab)
Office of Crime Victim Services
Division of Legal Services (includes criminal litigation and appeals)
Office of School Safety
Consider that it’s historically DEMOCRATS who try to argue that the Attorney General is NOT the “top cop” to camouflage their lack of experience in public safety and the fact their positions often run counter to it.
Democrat Kathleen Falk tried that tactic with disastrous results against Republican J.B. Van Hollen. Voters have consistently proven that they WANT conservative candidates in public safety positions (AG, judge).
Kaul himself has tried to redefine the position as being about partisan lawsuits over the DNR, diversity posts, and absurd press conferences chastising Republicans for caring about election integrity. He’s vulnerable, but he’s also crafty, and he won’t be easy to beat. The way to beat him is by highlighting his disastrous public safety record.
Madison.com reported that Adam Jarchow, a former two-term legislator, “argued the job is more like the CEO of the state Department of Justice, managing a large agency. Jarchow argued that (Republican AG candidate Eric) Toney is approaching the job with a narrow perspective as a prosecutor.” Jarchow made a similar argument to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
But Toney is approaching the position exactly as it needs to be defined if a Republican is going to win it.
This matters. “The MPA’s decision to support DA Toney is not based solely on promises – it is a life and death decision for our police officers and our communities,” said Andrew Wagner, acting president of the Milwaukee Police Association, when that association endorsed Toney. “When we hear, ‘defund the police’, we need an Attorney General that will stand up to this rhetoric and fight for the resources needed to maintain law and order. But our current Attorney General has let us down. He has shown us that law enforcement and law and order clearly are not his priority. The so-called ‘Top Cop’ has put safety at the bottom.”
We think the AG’s race really matters, even though it’s been flying beneath the public’s radar. Attorney General Josh Kaul is an extremely partisan, ideological Democrat who has gutted the Department of Justice’s law enforcement mission at a time of exploding violent crime, and, many observers believe, if he’s re-elected AG, he will be positioned to run for governor next time.
Jarchow’s mindset on the position (yes, it IS the state’s top cop) might help explain why he once backed legislation – with the likes of liberal Democrat Jonathan Brostoff no less – to keep some marijuana offenders out of jail and argued that police reform was probably necessary in urban areas like Milwaukee, while admitting he doesn’t know much about urban policing.
On a DrydenWire podcast in 2021, Jarchow was asked about personal use of marijuana and said, “We should legalize it, and we should just be done with it,” comparing marijuana legalization to gay marriage, and saying, “Republicans don’t know that the battle is over, but it’s over.” He said that Republicans need to convince other conservatives that “this should be legalized.”
He once called the Capitol Police an embarrassing “bozo operation” when they wouldn’t press charges into a tweet that Jarchow believed was a threat by a man who grew upset Jarchow posed with an AR-15 after the Florida school shooting. In another podcast, he said, “I would be the world’s worst criminal defense lawyer; people call me, you know I have friends, oh I got a drunk driving, what do you think? Don’t ask me, I don’t have a clue. That’s the blind leading the blind, wouldn’t you say.”
Adam Jarchow’s Lack of Criminal Court Experience Extends to Other States
Adam Jarchow finally removed the mystery and revealed on the Vicki McKenna show on January 19, 2022, that he is really running for state Attorney General. That came after months of saying he was just running to try to get someone else to run against Toney. In that interview, he reversed course and emphasized the criminal justice mission of the DOJ and sounded tough on violent crime. Which is great but…
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel confirmed that Adam Jarchow “has worked as a private attorney and does not have experience as a prosecutor or as a criminal defense attorney.”
On his website, Jarchow writes of his legal experience: “During the recent illegal Evers lockdowns, Adam helped fight back by representing a group of small business owners (for free) in the Supreme Court case that ultimately overturned the Stay-at-Home Order. He’ll bring that same kind of freedom-fighter mentality to the job of Attorney General.” But a review of state Supreme Court and appellate court records (see above) shows he’s only appeared in two Wisconsin appellate cases as a party’s attorney – a real estate and a forfeiture case. His involvement in the court case on the Stay-at-Home Order was filing a friend of court brief, court records show.
In addition to Wisconsin, Adam Jarchow has also practiced law in Minnesota and Florida, according to online biographies. The Florida Bar Association listed his areas of practice as everything from banking to real estate. Criminal law is not mentioned.
Jarchow wrote on LinkedIn, “I work primarily with business clients on a wide variety of legal issues.”
We checked Minnesota court records and didn’t turn up any criminal cases. Florida handles court records by county. We ran his state bar ID for Florida in the various locations of the law firm he worked for there, and didn’t get any, either.
Here’s the bottom line. The way to win the AG’s race in Wisconsin has ALWAYS been about defining the position as the state’s “top cop,” and the office through a public safety lens. The AG is the state’s top law enforcement official. Republicans change that narrative at their own peril.
Adam Jarchow’s Anti-Toney Website
On top of all of this, there are questions of temperament. Adam Jarchow created a website so childish that it actually has Toney depicted as a marionette. Then he deleted it (along with a lot of old tweets).
Jarchow served two terms in the state Assembly in Balsam Lake before losing a special election for State Senate.
“Politicians, like diapers, should be changed often and for the same reason. I have decided not to run for re-election,” he tweeted then.
For months we couldn’t even figure out if he was really running for Attorney General. He was just beating up the guy who is. When it comes to the campaign finance reports, we acknowledge that Jarchow wasn’t TRYING to raise money because he initially said he was running for AG just to get someone else to run against the Republican already in the race, but, well, that is just weird.
His January 2022 campaign finance report shows he raised 0 dollars for his Attorney General’s campaign. He loaned himself just over $10,000. See the report here:
Toney has raised more than $84,000 and has a cash balance of just over $41,000, which isn’t a lot either. If Republicans don’t consolidate around the candidate best-positioned to win and stop going on these distractions, their chances against the well-financed Kaul shrink immeasurably.
Jarchow is upset by Toney’s COVID prosecutions, which we explored in depth here. Toney dismissed those cases and refused to prosecute Gov. Tony Evers’ mask mandate. However, Jarchow is not pure on the issue either; he once argued in a podcast that “places like bars and restaurants” should require people to wear gloves and masks during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Either way, good people can certainly disagree on these COVID stances.
However, we think that Kaul’s attack ads will write themselves if he ends up facing a Republican with zero criminal case experience, if history is any guide. That’s just the bottom line.
We would ask again: Are Republicans serious about winning this position? Or not?