Despite some criticism, all four La Crosse County judges seeking reelection will run unopposed

Four out of five La Crosse County judges are up for reelection, and all four of them are running unopposed.

The deadline to file to run for a judicial seat was Wednesday.

Judges Ramona Gonzalez, Elliott Levine, Todd Bjerke and Scott Horne will remain in office for the next six years.

That is the term length for county judges in Wisconsin.

Local political analyst Joe Heim said while it can be tough to unseat an incumbent judge choices are better for voters.

“80, 90 percent of judges running for reelection get reelected,” Heim said.

It’s also hard because local judges don’t run a political race.

“Judges rarely have opposition because they’re dispensing justice. It’s not political, it’s not partisan,” Heim said.

But Heim said this year was different.

“If you’re going to run against an incumbent you have to prove a case that this person does not have judicial temperament or is sentencing too lenient. But those are subjective calls and you would have to prove that,” Heim said.

The La Crosse Police Department has criticized some local judges on social media multiple times for what they believe to be weak sentencing practices in some cases.

“When the police formally say something negative about a judge it does draw attention and this obviously did draw attention,” Heim said.

In a post from Dec. 20, the department called out Gonzalez for lowering local man’s bond from $10,000 to $2,500.

“Some of the police think that one of the judges is a little more lenient than she should be and that could cause some people to decide to run against her at some point,” Heim said.

That man, Jesse Turnmire, was facing multiple charges for shooting at a building and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

He posted bond and was arrested four hours later on suspicion of possession of meth with intent to deliver and felony bail jumping.

Afterward, Assistant Chief Rob Abraham said in a social media post, “…I don’t believe that community safety was considered by lowering the bond. I don’t understand why our judges keep letting felons with guns consistently back onto the streets.”

County Clerk Ginny Dankmeyer said if people want to make change, they should run.

“Working in government, we hear a lot of people complain about their taxes and this and that, but yet no one will run against the people who are currently holding those offices. So, unless you step up to make the change, changes aren’t going to happen,” Dankmeyer said.

Heim thinks it would be better for the entire community to give voters multiple options.

“I actually think that opposition to any elected official is not a bad idea. The idea of elections is to hold the person accountable to the public,” Heim said.

Heim said it’s rare for four out of the five judges to be seeking re-election at the same time.

Because the four La Crosse County judges up for re-election are unopposed, there will be no spring primary election in La Crosse in February.

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