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Friday, June 12, 2009

 11:08 PM 

Hassett '90 percent there' on AG bid


Former DNR Secretary Scott Hassett said he's "90 percent there" on a potential bid for the attorney general's office and will make a final decision around July 1.

Hassett, who said he's been talking to friends, Dems and others about a run since March, said he can't wait much past July 1 to make a decision because of the demands of a statewide bid.

"I'm just taking the temperature and laying the groundwork," Hassett said.

While not officially in the race yet, Hassett has already taken his first hit from the other side.

The Republican Party of Wisconsin put out a statement late Friday afternoon calling Hassett an "unqualified, job killing" candidate for AG. The party took Hassett to task for not being an active member of the Wisconsin Bar, making him ineligible to practice law in the state, and blamed the Department of Natural Resources under his supervision for Menards building distribution centers in Iowa and Ohio and doing expansions in other states instead of Wisconsin.

"First Democrats let prisoners out of jail early, and now they prop up a candidate for Attorney General with no experience as a prosecutor," RPW Executive Director Mark Jefferson said in a statement.

Hassett laughed off the criticism, saying he stopped practicing law when he took the secretary's position and has been looking at other opportunities outside of the field since leaving the post.

He said he's halfway to getting the needed credits to be active again with the bar and wondered if Republicans knew that being an attorney wasn't a requirement to be AG anyway.

He defended his law enforcement credentials, noting the DNR has a law enforcement division roughly the same size as the Department of Justice and pointed to his years in private practice that included hundreds of criminal cases and frequently representing law enforcement on labor issues.

"For more than 20 years, I represented law enforcement as their attorney," Hassett said.

Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce played a significant role in the 2006 AG campaign, spending big money to help Republican J.B. Van Hollen defeat Dem Kathleen Falk.

A Hassett campaign could create an interesting scenario for WMC, a group his father Paul used to lead more than two decades ago.

Hassett said he's known current WMC President Jim Haney since he was in high school and that Haney not only replaced his father at the business group, but also worked under him when the two of them were in the office of former GOP Gov. Warren Knowles.

"It would be interesting to see what happens," Hassett said.

Listen to the interview.

-- By JR Ross

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