VernonReporter

Vernon County elects District Attorney Gaskell to judge’s seat

Vernon County voters elected District Attorney Timothy Gaskell to replace retiring judge Darcy Rood on April 4. The race between Gaskell and local attorney Angela Palmer-Fisher could not have been much closer with only 180 votes separating the two candidates out of 9,390 votes. Gaskell tallied 4,785 votes to Palmer-Fisher’s 4,605.

Vernon County Election Results

Both candidates made appeals to voters that they were the most qualified for the job based on their experience and the types of law they practice every day. Gaskell emphasized his long career handling criminal cases as the Vernon County District Attorney for the last 20 years and in private practice for about 10 years before that. Palmer-Fisher emphasized her broad range handling not only criminal cases but also family law, juvenile cases, mental health commitments, guardianships and at least some experience working from the bench as a Court Commissioner under Judge Rood.

Timothy Gaskell

Endorsements were likely another reason voters were split evenly in the race with Gaskell getting the backing from a number of area attorneys, an appeals court judge, current and retired members of law enforcement and number of current and past public officials. Palmer-Fisher received endorsements from outgoing incumbent Judge Rood, current and former judges, local attorneys, mental health professionals and Western Wisconsin AFL-CIO.

Both candidates campaigned using mailers, radio ads, door-to-door, radio and newspaper ads. The candidates also met in Westby for a question-and-answer forum run by The League of Women Voters of the La Crosse Area. We were able to livestream that event from the Westby Area Performing Arts Center on our Facebook page here,

The race did get a bit contentious in the last week with Palmer-Fisher responding to a flyer that was sent out in the final days that she called “false and misleading”. The issue had to do with how many cases Palmer-Fisher had handled in her career versus Gaskell. The Gaskell flyer contained a graphic that showed he had handled 3,300 more cases than Palmer-Fisher with a statement that said “experience matters”.

On her campaign Facebook page Palmer Fisher stated “Angela’s opponent is spreading false information.” and went on to say “It is hard to understand why someone with 32 years of legal experience is not being clear and honest with the citizens of Vernon County. ”

That post also linked to a one page statement explaining in more detail why Palmer-Fisher thought the statistic was misleading. It said in part “Further, any attorney who practices defense work understands the workload of a defense attorney cannot be compared to that of a prosecutor. A large part of Angela’s caseload throughout her career has included guardianships, protective placements, juvenile delinquency cases, child and juvenile protection cases, termination of parental rights, injunctions involving minors and vulnerable individuals, and adult and juvenile mental health commitments. These case types are confidential by law. Angela’s opponent knows these records are not accessible and thus cannot be seen or counted by him or the public.”

Palmer-Fisher also refuted Gaskells assertion that she had little jury trial experience stating many of her cases are not publicly listed on the state court system and “It is hard to understand why someone with 32 years of legal experience is not being clear and honest with the citizens of Vernon County”.

Angel Palmer-Fisher

Gaskell responded with another Facebook post that said “My opponent has recently challenged the statistics quoted in my most recent mailer. The numbers were taken directly from the official Wisconsin Circuit Court Access website and I specifically stated that confidential juvenile cases were not included. The intent of the mailer was to highlight the disparity in our experiences.
Experience matters and I am asking for your vote on Tuesday.”

In the end the voters did choose Gaskell who will take over for Rood on August 1. Rood was elected in 2017 when she defeated Gaskell to replace retiring Judge Michael Rosborough who had been Vernon County Judge for 31 years.

Both candidates posted statements of gratitude once the official vote count was certified. Gaskell stating “THANK YOU!! The official canvass from last week’s election is complete and I want to thank everyone for taking the time to vote in this extremely close race. I look forward to serving you as your next Circuit Court Judge. It is an honor I don’t take lightly. A special Thank You to everyone that worked tirelessly on my behalf. You are very much appreciated.”

Palmer-Fisher posted “I am so overwhelmed by the amazing support that I have received over the last several months. I am extremely proud of the campaign that I ran. I did not sacrifice my integrity, maintained the priorities that are most important to me in my life, and did not resort to dishonesty in pursuit of a win. I ran so that Vernon County had a choice of who next sits on the bench and I respect the choice of the voters. I will proudly continue to serve the residents of Vernon County and focus on improving the lives of those most vulnerable in the coming years. I look forward to working with the future judge to make sure we have the kind of just and fair court that he and I talked about during our campaigns. I am and will continue to remain humbled by the confidence that so many residents have placed in me and will work tirelessly to ensure that Vernon County residents continue to receive the justice they deserve.
Thank you, thank you, thank you—you have all given me further reason to hold my head high.”

A replacement for Gaskell in the Vernon County District Attorneys Office will need to be appointed by Governor Evers to fill out the remainder of that term.

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