La Crosse council member aims to bring ‘progressive message’ to crowded 3rd District primary

By: - March 1, 2022 6:30 am
Mark Neumann

La Crosse Council member Mark Neumann hopes to bring a progressive vision to the 3rd Congressional District’s Democratic Primary. (Mark Neumann for Congress)

Mark Neumann, a retired pediatrician, former Franciscan brother and current La Crosse Common Council member, is running to replace retiring Rep. Ron Kind in the Democratic primary for the 3rd Congressional District because he doesn’t believe progressive values are being represented in the crowded race. 

Neumann is joined in the primary by state Sen. Brad Pfaff (D-Onalaska), Eau Claire business owner Rebecca Cooke, retired U.S. State Department official Deb McGrath and former U.S. Navy sailor Brett Knudsen. The winner is likely to face Republican candidate and former Navy SEAL Derrick Van Orden in the general election. 

Neumann ran an unsuccessful primary campaign against Kind in 2020 and says he is jumping into this race because he is unsatisfied with the vision of leadership offered by the other candidates. 

“I’m not seeing anyone carrying a strong progressive message in this race,” says Neumann, who was elected to the common council in 2021. “My desire is to have a great, robust primary, electoral process here in Western Wisconsin and I intend on announcing a progressive vision for the well being of our community. I think that’s distinguishing itself from the bland vanilla wrapper from my campaign colleagues.”

Neumann says that progressive vision rests on the four pillars of health care, the environment, justice and security. 

Having practiced medicine for 35 years, he says he came to the conclusion that the country’s health care system is broken and requires the expansion of Medicare to cover all Americans. This issue is what first drew him into the 2020 primary.

“I started advocating for single payer healthcare, realizing through my experience as a physician that our methods are inefficient and cruel in many instances,” he says. “I could see how this was disrupting in major ways the lives of families. It doesn’t have to be that way, many other countries, many other wealthy economies have figured it out and we have to get the job done.”

“What we want is quality health care when we need it without the hassle,” he adds.

On the environment, Neumann says he’s focused on reducing fossil fuel emissions and turning to cleaner energy sources — primarily through the expansion of nuclear power.

“Even in Western Wisconsin we’re seeing flooding people haven’t seen before,” he says. “We are late to responding and the only way to deal with this is as a community together. The personal contribution I like to offer is that we need to investigate and exploit the technology to create nuclear power in magnitudes we haven’t done before. We need more energy, it’s not just becoming more efficient. I see the future of humanity needing gobs of more energy because it’s always with the utilization of more energy that people improve their standard of living and quality of life.”

Through security and justice, Neumann says he wants to decrease the U.S. military budget while promoting a sense of fairness around the world and at home, legalizing recreational cannabis and reforming local police practices. 

“You need to always elevate and respond to and take care of human dignity,” he says. “Whenever we ignore human dignity, we’re applying injustice.”

Neumann says he sees his fellow Democratic candidates shying away from bold ideas because of their likely opponent in Van Orden — who attended the Jan. 6, 2021 rally in Washington D.C. that resulted in a deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol. Neumann says he thinks this is a mistake, making the race about just one candidate rather than who has the better vision for how to improve urban, rural and suburban communities across the district. 

“What I’m hearing from the other campaigns is, well we have a really bad competitor in the other party and we have to round the wagons and if we don’t do that we’re going to lose Congress,” he says. “That ain’t where it’s at. Folks want to see a vision, they want to hope for something and not be recoiled back into a position of protective resistance. The person who’s likely to be on the Republican ticket is Derrick Van Orden and people tried to turn him into this ogre. As far as I can tell, he’s not someone I’d like to have a beer with, but that’s not the point. The point is we have to offer a vision. If we prepare our electorate to be ready to vote, they will vote. If I’m right, they will vote for me. If I’m not right, I did what I could do.”

The primary election for the 3rd Congressional District is set to be held on Aug. 9.


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Henry Redman
Henry Redman

Henry Redman is a staff reporter for the Wisconsin Examiner who focuses on covering Wisconsin's towns and rural areas. He previously covered crime and courts at the Daily Jefferson County Union. A lifelong Midwesterner, he was born in Cleveland, Ohio and graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a degree in journalism in May 2019.