La Crosse political candidates receiving party endorsements ahead of non-partisan April election

The La Crosse County Democratic Party is publicly endorsing Mitch Reynolds for mayor; County Republican Party supporting Vicki Markussen

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – The race for La Crosse mayor, city council and school board are all technically non-partisan.

“Our founding fathers in Wisconsin wanted people to pick candidates for municipal elections that were based on the person, not the party,” retired political science professor Joe Heim said.

But Heim says that’s changing thanks to influence nationally and statewide.

“I don’t think it’s a healthy trend at all,” Heim said.

The La Crosse County Democratic Party is publicly endorsing Mitch Reynolds for mayor.

“We felt that there was one candidate that we really agreed with his vision for our community,” La Crosse County Democratic Party chair William Garcia said.

Garcia says the party is not endorsing candidates in the School Board race, but it is standing against comments made by candidate Rob Abraham, La Crosse’s assistant police chief.

“It became clear through emails released by the La Crosse Tribune, that he had made comments about in the time of COVID that teachers were not working, that they should be furloughed or paid less,” Garcia said.

La Crosse County Republican Party chairman Bill Feehan tells News 8 Now the party has not endorsed any candidates.

However, the party has encouraged people to vote for Abraham and mayoral candidate Vicki Markussen.

Markussen said in a Facebook Live March 15 she has been asked about taking endorsements, which she says she is not.

“It’s funny how announcing that you are not seeking endorsements confuses everyone, because it’s not the norm,” Markussen said.

Garcia says he’s happy if endorsements lead to more debate.

“I don’t think it’s contributing to a divide if you have an opinion,” Garcia said.

But Heim says endorsements are politicizing elections close to home.

“As partisanship takes over, we are less united people behind our political leaders,” Heim said.

Whichever candidates win, Heim wants the community to value them as people, not the party they stand for.

The La Crosse chapter of Our Wisconsin Revolution, a social justice organization, has publicly endorsed Reynolds for mayor and several other candidates running for city council.

For more on our local elections, visit the Local Elections 2021 HQ.