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FILE -- La Crosse County Administrative Center

La Crosse County Administrative Center

The participation of two out-of-county Republicans in La Crosse County board races is raising concerns about partisanship in local elections.

Jeffrey Schultz of Madison and Jonathan Minneci of Lodi circulated papers to put four and six candidates on the ballot, respectively. There are no residency requirements for those circulating nomination papers, but it is extremely unusual for anyone from outside the county to circulate nomination papers on behalf of county board candidates, according to University of Wisconsin-La Crosse political science professor Joe Heim.

“I’ve never, never heard of people coming from Madison to gather signatures,” Heim said.

Local politicians, including county board Supervisor Steve Doyle, are concerned about how the introduction of non-county residents as volunteers could change the tone of county politics.

“I think it adds an element of outsiders meddling in our local government, and I don’t think people appreciate that,” said Doyle, a Democrat who also serves as the representative for Wisconsin’s 94th Assembly District.

Doyle said that Schultz and Minneci’s positions in the offices of two Republican Assembly members — Ed Brooks and Bob Kulp, respectively — raised some red flags for him.

“This also adds an element of what I would call ‘unseemliness,’ where now you have paid professionals getting involved in what is usually referred to as citizen legislators races,’” Doyle said.

With his dual role as nonpartisan supervisor and Democratic representative, Doyle said he understands the importance of keeping party affiliations separate from local issues, which don't always fall along party lines.

“This should not be bare knuckle politics. This should be public service,” Doyle said.

The unprecedented help suggests county politics is becoming more partisan, Heim said.

Because of the small number of signatures required to get on the ballot — 50 — it’s unusual to have out-of-county friends gather those signatures on behalf of candidates for county board.

However, with several prominent members of the board being well-known Democrats, it “suggests to the other side that they should get more involved in it as well, and that’s what seems to be happening this year,” he said.

“It’s unfortunate that partisan politics seems to be creeping into more and more things in the state, and this is just the latest manifestation of that,” Heim said.

Schultz and Minneci, however, said they were volunteering to help friends in their spare time, rather than working in their professional capacity. Both men worked on Tony Kurtz’s failed congressional bid, making local connections as they helped the Republican take on U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, D-La Crosse, in 2014.

When asked whether he would consider himself an outsider, Schultz said, “Absolutely not. I’m from Wilton. I went to school at (Onalaska Luther High School).”

"No matter how anybody tries to portray it, it’s not a concerted effort by any party or anything. It’s just people and a place I’m interested in,” he added.

Minneci said he volunteered to help six candidates as a “friendly favor” because of his interest in politics on all levels. Knocking on doors and chatting about local issues is important work that he enjoys, he said.

“I don’t see it as anything more than that,” Minneci said.

Doyle was skeptical of their assertion that it was an innocent favor, calling it “a little odd” that they would travel so far to get involved in county politics. He pointed to the number of signatures gathered by candidates compared with the number gathered by Minneci and Schultz, including those of Kent Gabrielsen, who is running for the District 28 seat. Gabrielsen gathered three of his 67 signatures, with the rest gathered by Schultz, Minneci and Jason Knack of Onalaska, a member of the La Crosse County Republican Party executive committee.

“That’s not friends helping friends. That’s somebody else simply taking over somebody’s campaign,” Doyle said.

Doyle questioned whether that assistance would affect the candidates’ priorities.

The candidates, however, say they have their neighbors’ best interests at heart, not their volunteers.

Gabrielsen, a real estate agent who lives in the town of Barre, said his main concern was keeping property taxes as low as possible, both for his neighbors and customers.

“I just want to try to be more fiscally conservative,” Gabrielsen said.

Gabrielsen hadn’t met Schultz and Minneci before his campaign but has attended the same church as Knack for years. When Knack suggested Gabrielsen run and then offered to help gather signatures along with his friends Minneci and Schultz, Gabrielsen accepted.

Devin Schmidt, who gathered six of his own signatures and received help from Schultz, Minneci and Knack, said he appreciates the assistance but was running his own campaign against District 8 incumbent Peg Jerome.

“I’m not running as Devin Schmidt who is running with the rest of these Republicans,” he said. “I’m just running as me.”

Schmidt, who has known all three men since 2014, said Knack gave him the idea to run but he chose to take on the challenge because he views the board as a place where he can make a difference.

Schmidt’s focus is making “sure that we’re not spending too much yet making sure the county is taken care of, whatever their needs might be,” he said.

Knack suggested his friends run, then gathered signatures on their behalf, he said, because he believes they are the right people for the job.

“I’m proud to have helped them. They’re really good people,” Knack said.

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City government reporter

Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering local government and city issues for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218.

(39) comments

Wi Fan

Old homey, I live in La Crosse and belong to neither party. For anyone to say that the county board is non partisan is naive. Democrats recruit people from their party to run and Republicans do the same; call it what you want but it's still all politics.

oldhomey

Agreed and of course it is not non-partisan. But do we need to expand and intensify the partisanship by using secretly funded PAC money to up the ante in these races? And by the way, if you were not born in La Crosse County, you are a carpetbagger who has no right to run for office, vote or express a political opinion. At least that is the position of the enigmatic Clydefromona, as expressed in these postings. That would really tone down the partisanship, perhaps, if you had to show your birth certificate to precinct judges to prove you're a county-born, county-true citizen.

oldhomey

This is where we are going with Citizen's United. Billionaire money is most effective in altering state and local elections, which is why, even though they cannot swing pluralities in statewide elections, we see so many over-the-top radical conservatives around the country holding office. They swamp the state and local electoral process with ads, marshaling a conservative base of voters while more moderate candidates have no such backing to help them. If more moderate candidates put up a good fight, PAC money streams in to knock them off balance with nasty attack ads. And no, union campaign donations don't even come close to the billions being spent by billionaires and corporate interests to solidify their positions. I think the people behind this statewide intrusion into county politics was prepared for the objections raised, witnessed by all the arch-conservative defenders on these posts with this story, folks assigned to post here to soften the criticism.

realtorick

Sure is lucky I circulated my own nomination papers for County Supervisor District 15, at least according to Steve Doyle??? Like he is nuetral??? I was called about having some help on going out and getting signatures by the Republican Party, but chose to do this on my own. I was asked by Bill Feehan to run for this office and went to an organizational meeting about getting some balance on the County Board with the current in balance of Democrats. I had been thinking of running long before he called, ever since my conversations and disagreements with Tara Johnson over the abandonment of the County Administration Center. I believe as a non partisan position that I should do this on my own. Although I agree with many of the Republican Parties ideas, I also disagree with some of the Republican thoughts because I am an independent thinker who believes in common sense and will look at each topic for it's own merits (or lack of). I wish that other positions in the county were also non partisan from clerk-register of deeds-judge-etc, etc.

tower

And good for you Rick. I agree with lookout. How lazy are you to have some guy do the difficult work of getting 50 whole signatures? I don't care you one of the clowns who did this has a family that goes back 20 generations in La Crosse County, he doesn't live here anymore and, apparently, doesn't vote here either. The other guy had no connection with the county.

Melowese Richardson

While I agree with the sentiment laid out by lookout, I'd like you to point out anywhere it says that you are not allowed to do it. Until then, it is, what it is.

Ski Bum Paul Ryan

Which Republican Party ideas don't you support? I bet I could count them 3 fingers.

yourewrong

"With his dual role as nonpartisan supervisor and Democratic representative"

Seems like an odd role, you would think that a nonpartisan supervisor would not be tied to either party. Its surprising that the nonpartisan supervisor is calling out the competing party when they try to take seats away from his party.

tower

The term non partisan means the position, not the person holding the position. You think Hoffman is non partisan? You have to be dreaming.

AirForce Retired

Time to sweep the state with volinteers in every republican elected position, and start signing up people to support the republicans. Of course, sometimes papers accidentely get lost, and are not able to be duplicated, but then that would be wrong. Why do I suspect that this is the real objective of the repukes.

Clydefromona

Hello Cowboy, Hello, are you there or still surfing the laxdems.com website?

Asiseeit

modern day republicans are nothing more than a spreading disease that needs to be wiped out.

Wi Fan

Calling the county board non-partisan is wrong. It is the most partisan group there is. We make people in the County Clerks, Clerk of Courts, Treasurer and Register of Deeds declare a party and they have no policy making powers. The county board sets policy but declares they are not partisan....

oldhomey

Wi Fan? Where do you live and vote from?

KW123

Steve Doyle is the KING of hypocrites on this issue. When he ran for his Assembly seat in 2011, he had Rep. Pete Barca, the Assembly minority leader who is from the far southeast corner of Wisconsin, campaigning for him. I know this because Barca was at my front door one Friday night trying to persuade me to vote for Doyle. Hmm, that was awfully "unseemly" for Doyle to have an "outsider" from some 200 miles away meddling in a race in western Wisconsin!

shameless

Did Barca send representatives from the far southeast corner of Wisconsin to campaign for Doyle or did he just lend his personal support? There's a fairly large difference between the two.

KW123

Barca himself was at my door doing campaign work for Doyle.

oldhomey

KW123? Where do you live and vote from?

KW123

Right here in Steve Doyle's 94th assembly district ... and yet he had Barca come all the way over here from SE Wisconsin to do campaign work for him. Thus, Doyle is a hypocrite on this issue.

Redwall

After La Crosse County Republicans have sat on their hands for decades watching the likes of the Tribune editors, the Burkes, Doyle, judges and other partisan Dems have their way, a little mixing it up would be appreciated.

“I think it adds an element of outsiders meddling in our local government, and I don’t think people appreciate that,” said Doyle, a Democrat...

Actually, many people who have lived here their entire life feel alienated by the La Crosse government and would appreciate it, Mr. Doyle. The picture accompanying the article of the County building deemed not good enough for government offices yet good enough to convert to housing is testimony to the vapidness of the current regime.

The next project to go up the taxpayers you-know-what? The north-south freeway.

realtorick

The problem with your comment is like apples and oranges. The vacating of the County Administration Center was a huge mistake while the North - South connection from 12th Ave/Hwy 57/Hwy 16 Onalaska to 7th St, La Crosse is long overdue.

statetreasurer

In Addition to his work on Tony Kurtz's campaign he was very involved in Bill Feehans state senate bid.and then you top it off with a laughable story calling scandal because some "Outsiders" (who are actually not outsiders) are collecting signatures.methinks thou doth protest too much. what kind of scandal on the board are you trying to hide with this silly smokescreen

lookout

Like I said below if a candidate can't go out an get 50 signatures by themselves they're too lazy work for the people.

statetreasurer

Jeff Schultz has deep ties to the La Crosse area. He's been involved in local politics there since his high school days.

oldhomey

statetreasurer? Where do you live and vote from?

Machiavelli

Re: "Madison volunteers raise questions of partisan influence on county board"

Send in some LaX City Hall Nepotist Ninjas for the counterattack! Yee ha!

“The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

DrTracie

Check your sources, Tribune. It will help your waning credibility.
http://m.lacrossetribune.com/news/matt-harter-balances-his-inexperience-with-hard-work-drive/article_47feac0b-138d-597c-8a7e-b864ff520267.html?mobile_touch=true

oldhomey

DrTracie? Where do you live and vote from?

Boat Cap

I think it is interesting that Steve Doyle is concerned about this. Doyle, Johnson, Burke, have long been engaged in recruiting candidates for the county board and city council. How many county board supervisors are retired teachers? You will be amazed. Look at the Londre incident, that was prearranged to maintain control in his former district and run a county board supported for a city council seat to help the county. Notice that the Tribune is also running the story here. You don't read about the recruiting that goes on by the Doyle faction do you? It is the perfect combination, the county and the Tribune. You never here negative press about the county because the Tribune is an active supporter of the county and will do whatever it takes to to support Democrats running the county and opposing the city.

oldhomey

Boat Cap? Where do you live and vote? Do you have some evidence that the "Doyle faction" is engaged in bringing political organizers from outside to recruit candidates? Bring it on.

Ski Bum Paul Ryan

You mean that people that are on the County Board are recruiting candidates? Who would have thought. The difference is the people recruiting these candidates aren't on the County Board.

lookout

If a candidate can't go out an get 50 signature by themselves they don't deserve to be in any election. My god what is wrong with people today. Are they that lazy that they can't go out and meet people on their own to get { their own } very small number of signatures to qualify. If they don't want to do their own foot work THEY ARE IN FACT TOO LAZY TO WORK FOR THE PEOPLE.

Clydefromona

Democrats who make up the vast majority of the County Board have had for eternity have unions at their beck and call to gather signatures, volunteer for all manner of Dem Party events. I wish Vian would start reporting on all of the carpetbag County Board members the Dems bring in to run for County Board and then unions are expected to show and vote. Dems have the ready made captive audience of voters. Doyle is whining because his control is waning because the invisible spenders on the County Board are being identified and the debt the County has taken on will effect the bond ratings and loans available to public school projects in the County.

RINO Cowboy

so Clyde you moan about Democrats and unions (hmm, union members who actually LIVE in La Crosse County or no, please enlighten us). If THEY shouldnt do what you claim why allow these carpet Tbaggers from Walkerstan headquarters? More dirty tricks from the Party of Nixon. We now have to put up with it on the national level with Ted The Canadian Cruz, and the local level with this.

Clydefromona

Hey Vian and Bovine check this out!
http://laxdems.com/index.php
LaCrosse Dem website promoting County Board Dist. #14 candidate Margaret Larson and Dist. #21 candidate Vicki Burkei n Feb. 16 Primary election. Website goes on: Don't miss these very important local elections. Get involved! Write letters to the La Crosse Tribune. Call your local radio stations. Volunteer for candidates. We need to work together. If you have questions please use the LCDP Phone# 608-769-5286 or Click here to email We urge you to join and contribute to the La Crosse County Democratic Party.
Why did not Vian mention this?

Could it be Vian is partisan?

Remember all the Madison Unionites canvassing Coulee Region during Kapanke recall for Shilling?

oldhomey

Clyde, unless I am missing something here, the La Crosse County Democratic Party would most naturally be urging on its own website for people to support its candidates for county offices, don't you think? I am not sure I see your logic here that this website somehow impugns a news story that calls attention to a new wrinkle in local politics where people from outside are coming in to do the handiwork that normally should be the purview of the local Republican organization. So why, indeed, would the reporter mention this website in her story? Got any suggestions?

Clydefromona

Shilling, Chicago carpetbagger, former Kind staffer, sat on County, ran for 95th assembly. Billings, Carpetbagger from Minnesota, recruited by Doyle to sit on County Board then ran for 95th Assembly. Doyle, Asst Professor at UWL for years and years, sits on County Board for years and recruits Andrew Londre to sit on County Board, puts Stoll-Caucutt on Board after Londre moves out of District during campaign, resigns 2-3 days after election. You know nothing about Cruz/Carson kerfuffle. Carson aide /CNN caused whole circumstance. Carson ended with higher delegate total than polls said he would earn.How was he hurt? If he was look to CNN? :)

AirForce Retired

you really need to formulate a letter better before posting. I know jibberish is the rage these days, but come on. Give it a try.

Clydefromona

Betsy Blum from before and now Vian ignore reporting the action on the County Board by the conservatives and conservative view point.

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