Fond du Lac County District Attorney Eric Toney narrowly defeated former state lawmaker Adam Jarchow in the Republican primary for attorney general.
Toney will face Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul in the November general election.
“In a close and highly contested race, we came up just short,” Jarchow conceded on Twitter shortly early Wednesday.
“It’s time to unite behind @EricJToney and ensure he has the resources and support needed to fire Josh Kaul. Eric Toney has my full support.”
With nearly 95% of the vote counted, Toney led Jarchow by 37.7% to 36.9% — a margin of about 4,200 votes.
A third candidate, Karen Mueller, captured 25.4% of the vote.
If the final difference between Toney and Jarchow is less than 1 percent, or around 6,000 votes, candidates would be allowed to request a recount, per Wisconsin Elections Commission guidelines. Whether outstanding votes from a few outstate counties could tip Toney above the one-percent threshold wasn’t clear early Wednesday.
Toney and Jarchow each won convincingly in their home bases—for Jarchow in western Wisconsin and for Toney in the Fox Valley.
Jarchow had never handled a criminal case in his career, a fact Toney frequently pointed out. Jarchow responded by highlighting his experience as a veteran lawyer in civil court.
Jarchow, who represented Balsam Lake near Minneapolis in the state Assembly, built a consistent fundraising advantage over Toney. In July, his campaign reported receiving $400,000 in individual donations during the second quarter, more than quadruple Toney’s total.
One of the night’s biggest surprises: Mueller did unexpectedly well, capturing a quarter of the vote despite raising just $42,000 last quarter. She had entered the race on a promise to prosecute doctors who refused to prescribe the anti-parasite medication ivermectin for COVID-19 patients. Mueller appeared to be leading in three counties and very nearly took the Janesville-based Rock County.
Both Jarchow and Toney jockeyed on the campaign trail to be the race’s outsider; each sought to portray the other as a career politician in favor with the party establishment, though neither candidate attracted endorsements from top Republicans in the state.
Jarchow tried to paint Toney into a liberal corner; campaign mailers nailed Toney for saying that America had a “history of racism” and accused him of supporting police reform.
Toney was also criticized by close associates for running a pro-Trump campaign after allegedly voting for Democratic presidential candidates in 2016 and 2020, claims Toney has denied. Released texts showed Toney saying he wouldn’t vote for “Dumb dumb Donald” in 2020.
Toney, meanwhile, tried to hit his opponent for lacking prosecutorial experience and touted his three terms as district attorney.
Looking ahead to November, Kaul has already amassed a fundraising advantage, reporting having $2 million in cash on hand in July. But many expect the overall environment to tilt toward Republicans, which could put Toney or Jarchow over the edge.
A Kaul defeat would mark a further victory for anti-abortion activists in the state after the overturn of Roe v. Wade. Kaul pledged to not help prosecute clinics and launched a lawsuit challenging the state’s 1849 abortion ban; both Jarchow and Toney said they would enforce the ban and would have the power to sue operating clinics even in liberal enclaves like Madison and Milwaukee.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism