When the introduction to the Badger Democracy Democratic candidate interviews was written, I promised to not endorse a candidate in the primary. At the time, this writer had requested of union and statewide leadership to take unprecedented steps in unprecedented times, and refrain from a primary endorsement. Instead, it was suggested to expedite and sponsor a tour of debates and informational town hall meetings statewide, to give the citizens a close look at all the candidates – allow the people to decide. Then jump in with a full-force effort to take down Scott Walker after the nominee is chosen. That suggestion fell on deaf ears, because in the words of some in the movement…”that’s what we always do….we have to endorse for the sake of our members.”
Since the first endorsement by WEAC, the process has continued; and thanks in large part to the outright laziness and borderline conspiratorial neglect by the out-of-touch and politically inept statewide media, this turned into a two candidate race. Tragic, as the years of experience and wealth of knowledge and ideas brought to the table by Kathleen Vinehout and Doug LaFollette deserved better treatment in this process – and so did the people who started this movement. It is for this reason I have decided to make a late endorsement – to send a message that this is still the people’s movement, and in the end, the people will decide, and the nominee shall be accountable to us.
Badger Democracy is endorsing Kathleen Vinehout to be the nominee to face Scott Walker in the June Recall Election. Anyone who has heard Vinehout speak on the floor of the Legislature or in a debate setting knows she would make Scott Walker look like a sixteen-year old at his first debate club competition. Vinehout’s understanding of the issues at hand in Wisconsin is second to none in the state, and the painstaking specifics of her policies and initiatives demonstrate that she is the only candidate in this race who has written specific legislation and policies – not talking points – to repair the damage done by Scott Walker immediately. Her relationships in the Legislature make it a real possibility that she would have bi-partisan support in many of her initiatives – the most important being the repeal of Act 10. This fact has been completely ignored by the media. She is a leader in the Senate, and has vast administrative experience in overseeing the graduate and undergraduate programs in Health Administration programs at the University of Illinois – Springfield. A brief look at the issues:
Labor – It is a little known fact that Kathleen Vinehout left the security of academia after the faculty union at U of I was de-certified in a brutal and personally devastating loss in 1997. She left the state in support of collective bargaining rights as on of the “Fab 14” Senators. Vinehout’s strategy to repeal Act 10 doesn’t wait for the biennial budget cycle, and uses the “across the aisle” relationships and political capital she has with her Republican colleagues in the Senate to get the job done – again, something no one else is discussing.
Budgeting – Vinehout wrote her own budget in response to Scott Walker’s. It actually balanced the budget (unlike Walker’s) without the draconian cuts to education, health, and collective bargaining rights. No other candidate has authored as specific a statewide budget as Vinehout.
Education – Vinehout is a champion of public education. She was recognized by the Wisconsin School Administrator’s Association (staunch critics of the Walker education cuts) as “Legislator of the Year”, saying…“A tireless advocate for school finance reform, she clearly understands the challenges facing Wisconsin school administrators. But, what’s most important, she follows that understanding with action. In 2009-10, no state legislator had a greater positive impact on Wisconsin schools than Kathleen Vinehout.” Recognizing the negative impact of the Walker budget on public education, she wrote an “Emergency School Funding” bill. Again – there is simply no other candidate with as specific, and progressive, a plan for supporting public education.
Health Care – Vinehout holds a PhD in Health Services Research, and her MPH. She actually wrote the Wisconsin Health Exchange Bill, with an emphasis on accessibility and affordability in rural Wisconsin. This is a slam dunk – no one touches Vinehout on Health Care issues and policy initiatives.
Voting Record – Vinehout has an extensive voting record, and has been very consistent during her tenure as State Senator. Her record of Legislationis even more impressive. While this writer, as many others, had initial concerns over women’s health access, Vinehout put this issue to rest during our interview. When asked, “as Governor, will you commit to vetoing ANY legislation that would restrict, deny, or diminish women’s access to medically sound care or procedures?” Her response was emphatic:
Vinehout – Absolutely. Even if those issues ended up in the budget, I would veto them, especially anything funding related. Particularly in the case of narrowing access through legislative language to eliminate Planned Parenthood funding; I would absolutely veto any bill or budget item that has that effect. This session has been particularly brutal towards women. I have never seen a legislative session with so much intentional political payback and attacks by one side over another. That is not how Wisconsin should be governed.
Most importantly is Vinehout’s true grassroots nature. The term “grassroots” is being thrown around these days by everyone from labor unions and the Democratic Party, to Americans for Prosperity. While there is no doubt that labor unions have the potential for being grassroots – if they indeed serve the membership; there is no doubt that groups like Americans for Prosperity are the antithesis of “grassroots.” Vinehout is running a low-budget, statewide, volunteer driven, grassroots effort – and wherever she goes, she is winning people over.
In one of the most brutal election in state history (2010), she won re-election over a very popular challenger – Ed Thompson. In Spring of 2011, she turned back a recall effort which never got off the ground. It is also less known that there was a second recall effort which failed in Fall of 2011. Vinehout connects with all her constituents, across the aisle.
The true grassroots campaign is being run by Kathleen Vinehout, and in debate after debate, she proves herself strongest on the issues. It is also clear the lack of special interest and corporate money would make her accountable to the people who have elected her. That is why she has earned this endorsement.
The full interviews of Kathleen Vinehout, Kathleen Falk, Tom Barrett, and Doug LaFollette can be read at the previous links. Exercise your democratic obligation and right – VOTE on Tuesday. On June 5th, we will recall.