La Crosse mayoral candidates talk to voters one-on-one

As the Feb. 19 mayoral primary inches closer, the candidates are trying to reach as many La Crosse voters as they can.

On Saturday, they got a chance to chat with residents one-on-one at the La Crosse Public Library.

Ten of the 11 mayoral candidates were spread throughout the main floor to meet and greet with residents.

That’s the largest number of candidates in one place since the mayoral race kicked off.

La Crosse resident Robert Haavind came to the event, with the issue of crime weighing heavily on his mind.

“In my building about a year ago, one of the mentally disabled individuals was mugged at knife-point at the bus stop a little less than 90 feet from my apartment,” said Haavind.

As a photographer, Haavind did regular business with May’s Photo, where the owner and his son were gunned down in September.


He also lives less than a block away from where Sara Hougom was shot to death in March.

“Security is kind of an issue. It isn’t like I can run away,” said Haavind, whose physical disability leaves him getting from place to place with the help of a walker.

He said this mayoral meet-and-greet is the perfect format to get candidates talking not just about the big issues, but about his personal concerns as well.

“The general public, they can hop in their cars and go where they need to go. I’m stuck. I have to use public transportation. I have to try to walk on the sidewalk,” said Haavind.

The one-on-one format can also be more comfortable for voters than a town hall.

“Sometimes people are intimidated to get up in front of a crowd and ask a question. They don’t want to be singled out. But they still have questions and those questions are valid,” said La Crosse Public Library Community Relations Coordinator Pat Boge.

For Haavind, those conversations are about getting to know the candidates on a personal level before they’re voted into office.

“The view from city hall is going to be different from where they are as a candidate. But at least this way, I get a feel for what they are,” said Haavind.

Boge said more La Crosse residents turned out to the event this year than four years ago. She chalked it up to the high number of candidates this time around.

There was only one candidate out of the 11 who did not make it out to today’s event — Robbie Young.

For more information on each of the candidates, you can visit our spring election page, where you will find a bio for each candidate and their views on several different issues.