A partisan election for a nonpartisan job: La Crosse’s Sheriff race contested for the first time since 2006

LA CROSSE (WKBT) — Attack ads are common during an election, but one La Crosse race is the exception. The candidates for La Crosse County Sheriff are taking the political high road.

A passion for service is required for this La Crosse County job but filling out a job application won’t get you far.

“Sheriff is a unique position because it is a constitutional position, meaning it is elected,” said candidate John Seigel.

When voters head to the polls on November 8, they will choose between Fritz Leinfelder and John Siegel as the next sheriff of La Crosse County.

“They both have a lot of experience, they’re both considered evenly handed,” said political analyst Joe Heim.

Sheriff Jeff Wolf announced he would be stepping down after one term. Prior to Wolf, Steve Helgeson held the position for 12 years.

“The opportunity to run for sheriff doesn’t come very often,” said Siegel.

This is the first time since 2006 that two candidates are running in a general election.

“Incumbency means everything in those types of positions,” said Heim.

According to Article 6 of the Wisconsin Constitution, “sheriffs shall be chosen by the electors of the respective counties,” during the same time as the governor’s race.

“Everything on the ballot of the November Election is partisan by nature,” said Leinfelder.

Leinfelder is running as a Republican. Siegel is running as a Democrat. Heim says none of that matters.

“This is the type of position where you want to vote for the person, not the party,” said Heim.

Both candidates agree.

“If I’m a certain political party and I have a victim of a crime that’s a different political party, we’re not gonna be able to serve justice for that person – that’s ridiculous and it won’t happen that way,” said Leinfelder.

“I think we should represent everyone at the county,” said Siegel.

Although political affiliation doesn’t matter at the sheriff’s level, Leinfelder says “it’s a system that’s been in play, it’s worked, and I don’t foresee it changing anytime soon.”

Siegel says he hopes sheriff’s races continue to focus on a person’s experience.

“Law enforcement should have that higher standard of we serve everyone, we protect everyone, and this sheriff’s race should be no different,” said Seigel.

Heim says as partisanship trickles down to the local level – the future of the sheriff’s race may look different.

“I don’t expect it to get partisan in the normal sense of the term. However, I probably could’ve said that a few years back about other races as well.”

The election is Tuesday, Nov. 8.