A few thoughts on Kathleen Vinehout

At the recent monthly meeting of the Milwaukee County Democratic Party, I had the opportunity to hear Democratic State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, who has declared herself a candidate in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, address a standing room only crowd.

After Sen. Vinehout made her remarks, I had an opportunity to speak for a few moments with her, and I wanted to share my first impressions of Sen. Vinehout.

  • Though Sen. Vinehout’s prepared remarks started out slowly – she seemed visibly nervous – once she hit her stride her passion became evident. Sen. Vinehout talked about her background as a college professor and a dairy farmer, and she noted she was the only incumbent state senator from a swing district to win re-election in 2010.
  • During her remarks, Sen. Vinehout made it clear that if elected she would work to restore collective bargaining rights for public employees through a stand-alone piece of legislation. Sen. Vinehout acknowledged that the biennial state budget process could also be a means to restore collective bargaining for public employees, but she pointed out that Republicans opposed to restoring collective bargaining could simply delay passage of a new budget, which would keep in place the current collective bargaining-free budget passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature.
  • Sen. Vinehout’s speech also hit heavily on populist and progressive themes. She made more than one mention of progressive icon “Fighting Bob” La Follette, and she made it clear that she believes Wisconsin needs a leader who will “respect the will of the people, listen to the will of the people, and do the will of the people.”
  • Two of my favorite lines from Sen. Vinehout’s remarks were, “We can choose leaders who put the relentless pursuit of the common good above all else” and “If you don’t like the influence of money in politics, choose the candidate without money, and if you don’t like politics as usual, then support the unusual candidate.”

Having never met or heard Sen. Kathleen Vinehout speak before Monday night, I have to admit I was impressed by her passion, her folksy charm, and her populist appeal, and while I may not agree with her positions on every issue, her candidacy certainly seems to merit a closer look.

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