MILWAUKEE -- The Democratic primary for Wisconsin governor took a negative turn two days before the first debate as one candidate accused another of being "Republican-lite."
Matt Flynn, a former Democratic Party of Wisconsin chairman, has endorsed legalizing marijuana and pardoning people who are locked up for possessing the drug. He contrasted his plan with one from state schools superintendent Tony Evers, who has said he wants a referendum to see where voters stand.
"I like Tony Evers and I know him. Tony is somewhat Republican-lite," Flynn said in an interview with FOX6 News. "I think a governor has to be very clear. A governor has to be very firm and very strong. If you have a governor that's weak or appears weak, that's not going to serve the state."
Evers' campaign manager, Maggie Gau, said simply, "We're not commenting on this."
Marijuana and the prison population has become a flashpoint in the race this week. Most of the Democratic candidates support legalization, and some have said it will reduce the number of people who are held in Wisconsin prisons.
Those comments drew the attention of Republican Attorney General Brad Schimel, who said this week that the Democrats' ideas were "irresponsible."
"We don’t have people in prison for possession of marijuana. You don't get sent to prison for that. So it’s misleading to say that that’s going to reduce our prison population," Schimel told reporters. "We should do things that really do make a difference, and I think that includes continuing things we are doing right now."
Flynn said Schimel was "full of baloney" and said many people are locked up on marijuana possession offenses.
Another Democratic candidate who favors legalization, firefighters union official Mahlon Mitchell, criticized Schimel.
"I think the attorney general is misleading people, because if we were to stay on the same course that we're on right now, we would continue to have the highest African-American male incarceration rate in the country," Mitchell told FOX6.
Mitchell and Flynn each said they would pardon people on a case-by-case basis.
The first debate between the eight Democrats is Thursday, July 12 at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Evers held an 18-point lead in the latest Marquette University Law School Poll, conducted in June. The primary is August 14, with the winner taking on Republican Gov. Scott Walker in the fall.
Told of Flynn's criticism of Evers, Republicans were critical of both.
"Across the board, Democrats' plans to release prisoners are reckless and show just how dangerous this race to the left has become in the gubernatorial primary," said Alec Zimmerman, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Wisconsin.