Crime is on the ballot this year

OPINION:

Olivia Grace Schultz, a 12-year-old girl, was shot and killed Monday night while helping her mom unload groceries in Milwaukee. It is yet another reminder that public safety is a real issue in Wisconsin. Sadly, Gov. Tony Evers’ failed policies are not working. His Parole Commission released 884 convicted criminals — including 270 murderers and attempted murderers, and 44 child rapists.

Violent crime is surging to record levels in Wisconsin’s largest city. Mr. Evers supports the goal of reducing the prison population by half. But law-abiding citizens want more violent criminals locked up, not fewer.

Mr.. Evers’ woke rhetoric is not helping the crisis either. As the local paper in Kenosha declared: “Evers’ statement on Sunday fueled the fire before any rioters got here. His insufficient response has put a Wisconsin city and its residents in danger.” The low- or no-cash bail policies of his lieutenant governor, Mandela Barnes, led to the release of the criminal who ran down six innocent people in the Waukesha Christmas parade.

In contrast, businessman and Army veteran Tim Michels has support from sheriffs and other law enforcement associations across Wisconsin because he is committed to defending the police, not defunding them. He will fire liberal district attorneys who let violent criminals off easy. And he will end early release. Despite a more than 2-to-1 spending advantage against Mr. Michels, the race is a dead heat. 

Public safety is a real issue in the race for governor in Wisconsin. And it is becoming an increasingly important issue across the nation. 

In Arizona, concerns about public safety revolve around border security. Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the Democratic nominee for governor, said, “It’s ridiculous that we are talking about this as a core issue in the governor’s race.” In contrast, Republican candidate Kari Lake says she will declare it an invasion and call up the Arizona National Guard to take control of the border.

In Kansas, GOP Attorney General Derek Schmidt is going after Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly for being anti-law enforcement after she created a commission on policing and racial justice. She did it in response to the protests in 2020. Voters in Kansas want more support from the police, not less. 

In Nevada, crime has become a top issue with the Republican nominee, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, who claims that Gov. Steve Sisolak’s policies have hindered his ability to fight crime. He wants to toughen penalties for criminal offenses.

At the end of September, the director of Nevada’s Department of Corrections was forced to resign after a prisoner serving a life sentence escaped from prison. Amazingly, it went unnoticed for four days. It has become a growing scandal for Mr. Sisolak on an issue where he is vulnerable before the election.

The ongoing public safety problems in Oregon — particularly in Portland — have opened the door to a strong law enforcement candidate. Former state House Minority Leader Christine Drazan has stepped into that role with an aggressive plan to restore public safety. On Wednesday, she called for strengthening laws surrounding rape and sexual assault cases. She issued the call after learning of the impending release of a serial rapist.

Public safety has emerged as a power issue in the Oregon race. Former state Rep. Betsy Johnson is an exceptionally strong third-party candidate who has raised more money than the two major-party candidates. Former state House Speaker Tina Kotek has been pegged as wanting Oregon to be “woke and broke” and is hurt by her connection to term-limited Gov. Kate Brown, an unpopular incumbent.

According to FiveThirtyEight’s polling average, Ms. Drazan, a Republican, is at 34%; Ms. Kotek, a Democrat, is at 33% and Ms. Johnson, an independent, is at 20%. To the surprise of many, Oregon voters might elect a Republican. That has not happened since Ronald Reagan was president in the 1980s.

In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp has done an effective job of portraying Democratic activist Stacey Abrams as out of touch with the public safety concerns of Georgians. Ms. Abrams co-chairs an organization that advocates defunding the police even as she has spent more than half a million dollars on private security.

Public safety will be a key issue — if not the issue — in each of these races for governor. Efforts by liberals to defund the police, as well as early release and eliminating bail efforts over the past few years, are coming back to bite Democratic candidates across the nation.

Voters overwhelmingly understand the connection between open border policies and the flow of illegal drugs across the country. They can see the impact of just one dose of drugs like fentanyl. And they can see the violence that comes from drug smuggling.

Each time stories come out about victims like 12-year-old Olivia Grace Schultz, voters get more and more concerned about their own safety and that of their family and friends. They will be looking for candidates who are willing to do something about it.

• Scott Walker is president of Young America’s Foundation and served as the 45th governor of Wisconsin from 2011 to 2019.

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