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Wisconsin 7th Congressional District candidates square off on crime, inflation

U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany and challenger Dick Ausman drew contrasts in Wisconsin Public Radio candidate interviews.

Election 2022 in United States
The general election is Nov. 8.
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Support for police and accountability for "woke prosecutors" are keys to reducing crime, U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany said in a Wisconsin Public Radio candidate interview. His Democratic opponent called for raising police salaries and dismissed the notion that prosecutors are to blame for crime increases.

Tiffany, R-Hazelhurst, and Democrat Dick Ausman appeared on WPR's regional talk shows "Route 51" and "The West Side " as part of those shows' election interview series. The candidates squared off on crime, inflation and other issues.

Crime is being driven in part by police "in retreat," Tiffany said, as a result of lack of support from politicians and prosecutors.

"These, I hate to say it, Democrat-run cities are refusing to support their police," Tiffany said. "There needs to be some accountability (for) these, call them 'woke prosecutors,' who think that they don't have to prosecute crime."

Violent crime has surged nationwide beginning in 2020 , though recent national statistics are scarce. In Wisconsin, Milwaukee has seen a sharp increase in murders ; Mayor Cavalier Johnson has said public safety is the city's biggest challenge .

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Tiffany named Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm, who has come under severe criticism after his office recommended a low bail amount that allowed for the release of the man who police say killed six people by driving through the Waukesha Christmas Parade in 2021.

Ausman, a former business newspaper owner from Merrill, did not directly address Chisholm or his office, but said he "can’t imagine any prosecutor not wanting to prosecute someone who’s committed a violent crime."

Ausman also said he supports more funding for police departments across the state.

"We need to have more law enforcement officers, we need to pay them well and we also need to make sure they're equipped to handle the threats (that) are against them," Ausman said.

Amid retirements and resignations, state data shows that Wisconsin now has the fewest police officers working since the state began tracking the number in 2008 .

Tiffany was first elected in a special election in May 2020 . He won election to a full term that November. The sprawling, largely rural 7th Congressional District is among the state’s most conservative voting districts. In 2020, Tiffany beat a well-funded Democratic challenger by a margin of more than 20 points .

Ausman is not well-funded. According to the most recent campaign finance reports , he had raised only about $16,500 to Tiffany's $750,000.

Tiffany has staked out a position among the most right-wing members of Congress , including sometimes in votes that departed from the rest of Wisconsin’s delegation such as a vote against a broadly bipartisan bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday .

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In the aftermath of the 2020 election, Tiffany aligned himself with former President Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn Joe Biden’s victory , even signing on with a Texas lawsuit that would have thrown out all of Wisconsin's votes and allowed the state Legislature to declare Trump the victor.

In Friday's interviews, Tiffany said inflation is the "No. 1 concern" of voters he talks to in his district, and he pinned the blame for high inflation rates on excessive spending by the Biden administration.

Ausman said supply-chain shocks and the Russian invasion of Ukraine are driving inflation. He criticized Tiffany for voting against the Inflation Reduction Act, which the Congressional Budget Office found would reduce the federal deficit .

Wisconsin Public Radio can be heard locally on 91.3 KUWS-FM and at wpr.org.

Wisconsin Public Radio, © Copyright 2022, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Educational Communications Board.

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