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La Crosse Sheriff’s captain denies endorsing Mandela Barnes in US Senate race

John Siegel was mistakenly included in a Barnes campaign list of law enforcement endorsements Sept. 15

Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes gestures as he speaks into a microphone.
Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes speaks to event attendees as he kicks off his campaign for U.S. Senate on Tuesday, July 20, 2021, in Milwaukee, Wis. Angela Major/WPR

A La Crosse County Sheriff’s Department captain says he never endorsed Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes’ U.S. Senate campaign days after the campaign included his name in a “coalition of Wisconsin law enforcement” supporting the Democratic hopeful.

On Thursday, the Barnes campaign released a list of nine endorsements from current and former law enforcement officers. Among them was John Siegel, who was listed as a police captain for the city of La Crosse.

On Monday, conservative website Wisconsin Right Now reported an interview with Siegel in which he said he never endorsed Barnes.

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“I have not endorsed anybody,” Siegel told the outlet. “I spent most of my day Friday trying to get a hold of people asking how did this happen.”

Siegel is actually a patrol captain with the La Crosse County Sheriff’s Department and running as a Democrat to replace outgoing Sheriff Jeff Wolf. He told WISC TV he had a brief conversation with a member of the Barnes campaign but said “I didn’t ever agree to put my name on anything or be added to a list.”

Barnes campaign spokesperson Maddy McDaniel told Wisconsin Public Radio it was a mistake “due to a clerical error,” which was corrected on the campaign website Saturday.

“The Lt. Governor is proud to be endorsed by a coalition of over a dozen members of law enforcement across the state including the Sheriffs of Rock County and Green County,” said McDaniel.

Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson’s campaign issued a statement Monday, accusing Barnes of faking “at least one of the names on his endorsements list.”

“Mandela Barnes has been lying about his positions and now he’s lying about who supports him,” said Johnson spokesperson Alec Zimmerman. “This election is about who you can trust.”

Johnson’s campaign and allies of his third-term reelection bid have spent millions of dollars on negative TV ads accusing Barnes of wanting to defund the police and cut Wisconsin’s prison population in half. Barnes’ campaign and allies have also spent millions on negative ads against Johnson, accusing him of being an out of touch millionaire who supports outsourcing jobs from the state.

In the latest state polling from the Marquette University Law School, Johnson and Barnes were essentially tied in the Senate race.