UPDATE: GOP attorney general candidate acknowledges OWI - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

UDPATE: GOP attorney general candidate acknowledges OWI

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The lone Republican candidate for Wisconsin attorney general is facing some tough questions about a past conviction for drunk driving, which he didn't acknowledge until it was revealed by a media outlet.

What makes the revelation all the more surprising, is that it comes just a day after Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel expressed skepticism about criminalizing first-offense drunk driving convictions in Wisconsin.

On Tuesday, Schimel told reporters at a WisPolitics.com luncheon that he is skeptical of making first-offense OWI a misdemeanor.  WisPolitics.com reports that Schimel expressed concerns over the cost of such a change and said lawmakers shouldn't just push for it "because it appears to feel good or make a good headline."

After those comments made the rounds, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel learned the 48 year-old Schimel pleaded guilty to drunk driving in May of 1990.

Schimel admitted to the conviction Wednesday, putting out a statement on the matter.

"I made a terrible error of judgement as a young person and its a mistake that I deeply regret," Schimel says in the statement.  "I pleaded guilty and took responsibility for my actions, and I continue to work each day to help others learn from my experience."
 
"Well, I'm disappointed he wasn't more immediately forthcoming about his past and drunk driving, especially when he had a conviction," Rep. Jon Richards (D-Milwaukee) told 27 News.  Richards is one of two Democratic candidates for Attorney General, along with Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne.

Richards says he is open to looking at criminalizing first-offense OWI, but says there is more pressing drunk driving legislation.

"If he were convicted of drunk driving again, it would come up as first-offense, because right now in Wisconsin we expunge those records after ten years.  We are changing that," said Rep. Richards.  "We already voted the change by a broad bipartisan vote in the Assembly and I would call on him (Schimel) to call for the State Senate take up that bill and have Governor Walker sign it."

First-offense OWI convictions are not technically expunged after ten years, but a person's record is reset.  That means if someone gets an OWI citation 10 years or more after their first one, it is again only counted as a first offense.    

Wisconsin remains the only state in the nation that doesn't treat first-offense drunk driving as a crime, only as a civil forfeiture.

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WAUKESHA (WKOW) -- Waukesha County District Attorney and attorney general candidate Brad Schimel got drunken driving ticket in 1990.

A campaign consultant acknowledged the citation Wednesday, a day after Schimel made news at a public forum in Madison by saying he was skeptical of the idea of criminalizing first-offense drunken driving, as every other state does already.

"I made a terrible error of judgment as a young person, and it's a mistake that I deeply regret," Schimel said in a statement given to 27 News by the Schimel campaign.  "I pleaded guilty and took responsibility for my actions, and I continue to work each day to help others learn form my experience. As a career frontline prosecutor, I've committed my entire adult life to fighting crime and making Wisconsin a safer state.  Those efforts have included combating drunk driving and the very real dangers it creates.  My experience led to me to help create a variety of innovative and successful programs designed to reduce the number of first time offenders and repeat drunk drivers."
 
Schimel is currently 48 years old. 

He's the only Republican currently in the race to replace Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, a Republican who announced last year he wouldn't seek a third term when his term ended in 2014. Democrats currently in the race are Rep. John Richards of Milwaukee and Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne.

27 News Capitol Bureau Chief Greg Neumann will have more on this development in the race for Wisconsin Attorney General tonight in 27 News at 5, 6 and 10.

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