LA CROSSE, WIS — Hours after Mayor Tim Kabat’s announcement that he will not be seeking reelection for a third term, councilman Martin Gaul indicated he will be running for La Crosse mayor this spring.
In a press conference Wednesday morning, Gaul announced his candidacy by standing in silence, without expression, with his arm outstretched clutching completed election papers for all to see. Gaul remained motionless for five straight minutes before nodding and walking off.
Political analysts say the stoic look is a bold strategy, one that communicates a no-nonsense, by-the-book approach, which appeals to a broad segment of voters. While a stoic look connotes responsibility, order, and logic, the downside is that some voters will see it as aloof, uncompromising, and even intimidating.
“Candidates really need to know their base and understand the voting population within their municipalities,” said Jerry Goff, political science professor at UW-La Crosse. “Ultimately, Gaul will have to weigh the pros and cons of using the stoic look strategy as the election nears. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him round it out with a few others, including the slight smile and deep-in-thought look.”
Gaul’s approach appears to be succeeding, however. Reports from the La Crosse County Elections Board indicate he has already won nearly 3,000 votes, even though the race has not yet begun.
Jeannie Brown, spokesperson for the Gaul campaign, said the early results are encouraging and that they are also working on potential nicknames to further boost Gaul’s appeal, including “The Deputy,” “Stonewall Gaul,” and “Not a Robot.” She believes Gaul would be an inspiring and effective mayor.
“I’ve definitely seen him talk, plus he’s taller in real life,” said Brown. “Martin is ready to open a can of mayoral whoop ass, especially on those bullies in the parks department who keep hiding his lunch in the women’s bathroom and changing his computer’s desktop wallpaper to a doctored photo of him in a lavender tutu. So yeah, they better get ready.”
Gaul himself did not immediately return phone calls asking for comment, but he later left a voicemail message that was two minutes of breathy silence.
Reporter Greg Lovell contributed to this article.