Van Hollen Not Running for Re-Election

Two-term Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen has announced he will not seek re-election in 2014. Van Hollen’s announcement was a surprise to many, and came on the same day as Mary Burke’s announcement that she will run for governor. The combination of the two announcements and the three special elections in the state Assembly officially ended Wisconsin’s brief (but much needed!) elections hiatus.

Van Hollen released the following statement regarding his decision:

Today I wish to share with you my decision not to seek a third term as Attorney General and to thank you for the confidence you have placed in me.

When I chose to stand for this office eight years ago, I had a clear vision of what an Attorney General should do, and as importantly, should not do. Simply put, I believed Wisconsin needed an Attorney General who would fight crime and restore integrity.

Your votes in 2006 and 2010 provided me the opportunity of instituting this vision. I have kept faith with my promises.

During my administration, we have put public safety first. We eliminated the DNA backlog at the state crime laboratories and expanded our efforts and ability to fight crimes against children. We upheld our commitment to assist local law enforcement, through training, investigative assistance, and advocacy. We supported crime victims by restructuring victim services funding to improve long term stability and expanding outreach. We launched the statewide criminal justice coordinating council and merged the Office of Justice Assistance’s law enforcement support programs into the Department of Justice, allowing the state to more efficiently and effectively support local law enforcement and create the infrastructure to develop data and information driven approaches to criminal justice problems.

We have restored integrity in multiple ways. We have put the law and the rule of law above politics, thus eliminating the all-too-common Attorney General activism that grows government and contributes to political discord and dysfunction. Legal opinions of the Attorney General became just that: legal opinions, not my personal opinions. We have vigorously enforced and defended laws, whether those laws were supported by Republicans, Democrats, or both. We also upheld integrity by emphasizing fiscal responsibility. We achieved record recoveries in our Medicaid Fraud Control and Elder Abuse Unit and I voluntarily returned Department funds to the public treasury.

By putting public safety first, I believe the Department of Justice now enjoys healthy partnerships with local law enforcement and prosecutors, which leads to the better investigation, prosecution, and hopefully prevention of crime. By focusing on public safety and putting my duties above politics, I have enjoyed the confidence of two governors and productive relationships with each of the four Legislatures, whatever their varied political compositions. Because they recognized the Department acted with fiscal responsibility and integrity, they trusted the Department to effectively and efficiently implement expanded programs, like DNA forensics, and new initiatives, like the concealed carry permitting program. Without their support and law enforcement’s support, many of my administration’s accomplishments would have been difficult if not impossible to attain.

I am proud of these accomplishments and I remain deeply committed to the Department of Justice’s mission and continuing our successes throughout the remainder of my term. The decision not to run will allow me to focus exclusively on the remaining tasks without the distractions of a campaign. I believe no person should be Attorney General for life, or for too long. Our democracy requires a balance of experience and fresh views. For my family, for me, and this office, it’s time to give Wisconsin voters new choices.

It is a privilege and an honor to serve the people of Wisconsin. Thank you for placing your trust in me. I look forward to serving as your Attorney General for the next 15 months.

An unexpected open seat for state-wide public office is enough to make politicos giddy. As per usual, the field will start broadly and narrow over time. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that, “Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel said he is likely to run for the Republican nomination. Among Democrats, state Rep. Jon Richards of Milwaukee signaled he might soon announce a bid for the office, and state Rep. Chris Taylor of Madison said she was considering it.”