Wisconsin Recall: Vinehout’s the Real Deal

Endorsements for candidates in posts here do not represent the opinions of all regular contributers, blue cheddar, or the blog’s many guest writers.

I spent most of Wednesday afternoon reading up on Kathleen Vinehout, in part because she’s the Democratic gubernatorial challenger I find most compelling, in part because a blogger I very much respect has come out solidly in her favor, and in part because that evening I would have the opportunity to ask her any questions that arose in the course of my reading.

I find Vinehout compelling because I believe she’s the candidate who has demonstrated the most support for the Wisconsin movement and has most strongly stood up to the Fitzwalkers. And she has a lot of respect and enthusiasm for what she calls the renaissance of democracy that is transforming the political landscape of the state. She has broad appeal because of her strong connections with rural and small-town Wisconsin. No one can call her a Madison or a Milwaukee Democrat.

Vinehout’s credibility is enhanced by her having been one of the Fighting Fourteen who left the state last year to slow Walker’s railroading of the Wisconsin people. If the senators hadn’t responded so quickly, the Wisconsin movement might not have been able to gain the momentum that it did. Their leaving was pivotal in galvanizing the people to stand up and make themselves heard. The senators’ bold action bolstered us, because we knew we had strong advocates in the legislature.

Vinehout, Fighting Bob Fest 2009
Vinehout spoke at the Fighting Bob Fest in Baraboo in 2009, and I remember that she was stirring and articulate and really got my progressive blood pumping. So I went to hear her speak at Wednesday night’s Drinking Liberally meeting at the Brink Lounge in Madison knowing I was going to hear a dynamic and persuasive speaker, and she did not disappoint. She exuded energy and optimism and was friendly and approachable.

She began with the story of how the fourteen senators were able to leave the state. Senate minority leader Mark Miller called the senate clerk at 11pm on Feb. 16 to verify the number of votes needed for a quorum on a budget bill. After confirming that twenty senators were needed, the clerk told Miller that on the following day a state trooper would be assigned to each one of the Democratic state senators, presumably to make sure they didn’t attempt to leave the building before the vote. Talk about heavy handed! Miller called Vinehout and the other senators first thing the next morning, thus enabling them to get away before Papa Fitzgerald’s state troopers had them hemmed in.

Vinehout affirmed her support for public education and public school teachers, her determination to see collective bargaining reinstated for public employees, and her belief in the critical importance of affordable health care for all. When asked why we should support her candidacy, she cited the breadth of her experience as a public health nurse, college professor, and organic dairy farmer as well as her six years as a state senator.

She emphasized that “we must be the change we want to see in the world,” that “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for,” and that it’s up to us to fix this horrible mess we’re in. She said that if you don’t like politics as usual, vote for the unusual candidate. And if you don’t like money in politics, vote for the candidate with the least money.

Questions have been raised about Vinehout’s bona fides in relation to safeguarding women’s reproductive freedom, and my reading suggested that perhaps those questions will be the ones that will dog her most during this short, intense primary season.

One woman asked Vinehout Wednesday night why she is against abortion. Vinehout confirmed, though, that she believes abortion should be “safe, legal and rare” and that her legislative record confirms that belief. When asked later what she meant by “rare,” she said that providing good health care for all women, access to birth control, and good sex education would have the effect of making abortion rare. I asked about her amendment to a 2008 bill (that didn’t pass) that would have permitted a pharmacist, on the basis of conscience, to refuse to fill a prescription for contraceptives “if the pharmacist ensures that the patient will have access to the contraceptive elsewhere.” I asked why a pharmacist’s conscience should trump my ability to procure my contraceptives without costing extra money (for transportation), delay, and inconvenience.

She responded that the Wisconsin constitution has a stronger conscience clause than the U.S. Constitution has, and she wanted to ensure that the bill did not violate the state constitution, which as a senator she is sworn to uphold. She also said that a year later a bill was passed that requires pharmacies to dispense contraceptives without delay, while allowing an individual pharmacist to decline to dispense contraceptives for reasons of conscience provided that another pharmacist at that location can fill the prescription immediately.

Video – Senator Vinehout clarifies her position on access to contraception in Wisconsin:

A few minutes after she was done with the question-and-answer portion of her presentation, Vinehout came over to our table to talk to me and another woman. I asked her then, “but what about that amendment?” Even though it ultimately didn’t become law, the wording still concerned me. She conceded that the amendment was problematic and that in fact she had borrowed the language from Illinois legislation that had been supported by Planned Parenthood of Illinois. (I haven’t verified this.) She added that she was involved in writing the legislation that did pass the following year and that she prefers its language. So the 2008 amendment was probably not her finest legislative moment, but I was satisfied that it didn’t indicate a desire to restrict women’s reproductive freedom or a lack of support for women’s right to control their own reproductive choices.

So I was—and am—satisfied with Vinehout’s answers to my questions. I believe that as governor she will be a strong advocate for women’s reproductive health and freedom and, most important, will be responsive to the will of the people. I arrived Wednesday night leaning in Vinehout’s favor, and I left feeling real enthusiasm for her candidacy. She’s not riding in on a white horse to save us, which is a good thing. She’d be the first to assert that it’s we the people who will save our state. But I think she can help us do that, and I believe she’s the real deal.

Victory. Statements from Senators Wirch, Holperin, and Miller

Image from CSMonitor-Senator Wirch's Victory Speech

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you to each and every one of you who assisted in last night’s victories.

I know I’m breathing easier today seeing Wirch and Holperin hold onto their seats. I pledged on facebook that I’d eat my hat if Simac won.(a large sun hat. awfully dry eating.)

I’d like to think that with only a 1 vote majority now, Wisconsin’s Republican state senate will feel like it has to take a more moderate direction. I’d like to think there are a few politicians realizing Walker can’t protect them from consequences. Frankly, I’m still processing it all. How about you – feeling hopeful? Or just tired? Other?

Here’s a good citizen-journalism video from MadManMikey which includes Senator Bob Wirch’s victory statement and more. (Audio starts a little quiet but gets better) Senator Wirch says “I am honored to fight for working class people” and the crowd breaks out into the classic “Thank you! Thank you!” Wisconsin protester chant. Wirch relays a comment from John Bowser of Sha Na Na, who has helped multiple Democratic Senators campaign: “Wisconsin people are the nicest people in the whole world. But don’t get ’em angry!” Wirch adds that politicians need to get back to being able to negotiate and find moderation and compromise. At the 6:42 mark the crowd repeats “Recall Walker! Recall Walker!”

WAOW has a a little coverage from Holperin’s speech last night – -in which you also hear the crowd break out into “Recall Walker” chanting, followed by some terse commentary from retired political science professor Dr. Angela Burger

FOX11 provided words from both Holperin and Simac –no chanting–and starts out by titling it their “Balanced Coverage”. Snickering is almost obligatory.

Here’s a statement from Wisconsin State Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller on last night’s wins:
“Senate Democrats have fought for the rights and priorities of middle class and working families. In historic recall elections across the state the people of Wisconsin have clearly spoken out against the radical, divisive agenda Governor Walker and legislative Republicans have pursued to date.

“All three Democratic incumbents have been re-elected, Democrats have won two seats, adding two fantastic new Senators – Jen Shilling and Jess King – and came within 1,100 votes of flipping the Senate majority.

“When the legislature returns, Democrats will continue to focus on an agenda that brings sustainable, well paying jobs to Wisconsin, ensures women, children and families have the health care they need, provides the opportunity for a great education for our children and job training for workers, protects our clean air and water, and delivers tax savings to the small businesses, middle class and working families that need it most.

“We would welcome the opportunity to work with the Governor and legislative Republicans on this agenda to move our state forward.”

And for a flashback, here’s Senator Miller’s statement regarding the previous week’s election results.
8/10/2011 MADISON — “Tonight we have added two outstanding women to the Senate Democratic Caucus, Jess King and Jen Shilling.

“Six months ago no one would have ever expected we would be where we are tonight. The people of Wisconsin have made history. While Democrats have not won back the Senate tonight we have not lost.

“Democrats, moderates, independents and even Republicans fought back against the radical Walker overreach that attacked core Wisconsin values. We fought on Republican turf and added two Democrats to the State Senate.

“Teachers, nurses, firefighters, police, EMTs, blue collar and white collar workers fought back in historic rallies at the Capitol, gathering 180,000 signatures in every corner of the state to trigger unprecedented recall elections and elected two Democrats.

“We pushed the Republicans and their special interest allies to the limit in strongly Republican districts. The middle class and working families stood up to the special interests and the right-wing extremists and won.

“Clearly the radical, divisive agenda Republicans have pursued does not sit well with the people of Wisconsin. It is time to end the assault on middle class and working families and for Republicans to work with Democrats to create jobs, protect our schools and ensure children, seniors and working families have access to health care.”

Wisconsin State Senate District 12 - It Stays Holperin Territory

More on past election #’s for Wirch and Holperin’s districts at DailyKos.

Photos, Tidier notes, and Twitterati from the “Organizing the Occupation” panel

Photos from the NOI 5/12 “Organizing the Occupation” panel at UW Madison, with my notes. Reminder:  I am usually only paraphrasing the speakers. Skip to the end for the twitterati contact info.

I’ve heard NOI is making a video of the panel available later this week.

[nggallery id=2]

My notes from “Organizing the Occupation”:

5:10pm

Tom Foley is introducing the concept of Scott Walker’s entry into the political scene of WI right now. We are in the Union South Bldg. of University of Wisconsin at Madison in Wisconsin

On the panel is Melissa Ryan, New Media Director of NOI. Also here is Senator Larson, Emily Mills, Chris Liebenthal, and Max Love. Emily Mills is a blogger with Isthmus, a co-editor of blog dane101, and a musician. Chris Liebenthal is a Milwaukee County social worker, activist, and avid blogger at multiple locations –  though he’s best known as the man behind Cognitive Dissidence.  Max Love is a UW student who helped organize protest and occupation at the Capitol in Madison. He’s with Badger Impact and he’s blogging the unflagging protest of UW Madison’s community at tenacious transparency. Moderating is Tom Foley who blogs at  illusory tenant with a mix of biting humor and legal acumen.

Senator Chris Larson was elected in Fall of 2010 and was amongst the 14 Wisconsin Senators – the “Dem 14” or “Fab 14” – who left for Illinois on February 17, 2011 to halt action on Scott Walker’s regressive “Wisconsin Act 10”.

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Sen. Larson: We took a page from Egypt in use of technology. …. you can literally check on your politicians’ facts while they are speaking  [happened last night while a rep in the Assembly Continue reading

Rallying troops for the Kapanke Recall: Senator Jon Erpenbach in La Crosse, March 19

Senator Erpenbach (one of the famous Fab 14-ers) visited La Crosse, Wisconsin on March 19, 2011 to support the “Recall Kapanke” campaign. This is a segment from the speech he gave at this event.

Part 3. 150,000 Welcome the Dem14 Home: I laughed, I cried, I took pictures.

I have video. I have audio. I have photos. They all should be compiled into a multimedia schmorgasbord. But it takes so much time to wrestle with this stuff. Just thinking about it… I need to relax and have a beer. So, for the moment, here are a few photos and comments.

Part 1 and Part 2 say “100,000” Then I heard from Steve Hanson, 150,000. Do you know how many people went to this rally? I do know that I became really uncomfortable at one point as I got smooshed in a big pack that would only inch forward. In broad daylight outside.

I found this odd and frustrating, but then again, once in a while we’d lighten up and pick up in song. Musical packs of humanity. This actually describes normal life here since February 11th.

Darth Walker stood on the corner on the way to Barriques. He wouldn’t talk or change his facial expression, remaining “in character”. Here I laughed.

Judging by posture, profile, and mood, I’d guess these drummers were father and son, or at least relatives. They drummed together solemnly near the head of the Dem 14 parade. At this point, I did cry for a second.

Firefighters, firefighters, firefighters. I will never, ever be tired of firefighters.

Senator Jon Erpenbach getting flirted with, I think.

Senator Kathleen Vinehout. Believe it or not, given the hive effect here, and relative mayhem, this is not a terrible shot.

Can you guess where I was when I took this shot?

Yes. That is a rather large puppet. I was surprised too. I think I said something eloquent like, “Holy crap. Big puppet.” and fumbled for my camera. Continue reading

Part 2. 100,000 Welcome the Dem14 Home: The Press Conference

I could say without exaggeration that I was riveted to the appearance and the words of the Dem14 at Saturday’s press conference.

Dave Hansen of Green Bay conveyed the most emotion of all of the Senators who spoke to us.

Sen. Dave Hansen

Here is a 2.5 minute selection. This is a recording I don’t get tired of.

I realize I am incredibly biased. In my eyes, what the Dem14 did was necessary and heroic.  The press in this room didn’t share my admiration Continue reading

100,000 Welcome the Dem14 Home in Madison, Wisconsin

I’m going to say 100,000. I see reports of “over 85,000” but as I saw no helicopters flying overhead, meaning we had no professional estimates, the evaluation by someone who’s been to every single historic Saturday labor rally in Madison, Wisconsin is good as any. I spent the day at Madison, Wisconsin’s largest rally yesterday. I wanted to do this piece when I got home, but the combination of walking on concrete, the exhileration of it all, and standing in the wind for nearly 7 hours did me in. As happens on every day I go to a rally, I fell asleep on the couch in the middle of trying to write or post photos. Now I have to get ready to play music for church. This will be what it will be. Assume more to come in the afternoon.

The Tractorcade

That wind!

Fifty tractors embarked from the Alliant Energy Center to the Isthmus, driving down John Nolen Drive Continue reading

Insulting Letter to Dem. Senator Mark Miller from Scott Fitzgerald

Scott Not-Afraid-To-Be-A-Royal-Prick Fitzgerald: Republican Majority Leader, Wisconsin State Senate


March 7, 2011

Sen. Mark Miller

Parts Unknown, IL

Dear Senator Miller,

Thank you for your hand-delivered letter with an offer to meet, in Illinois, about the business and future direction of Wisconsin.   Let’s set aside how bizarre that is for a moment.

As you know Continue reading

Democratic Senator Kathleen Vinehout says she’ll “talk turkey” with the Gov.

“Senator Miller and Senate Democrats have offered Governor Walker numerous compromises.  Labor leaders have provided financial concessions the Governor requested.  Hundreds of thousands of people have voiced opposition to the “budget repair bill.”  The people of Wisconsin want our leaders to work together.  My colleagues and I want to make this happen.  If the Governor doesn’t want to meet with Senator Miller, I am ready to meet with him and reach a compromise that moves us forward.”

This came to me via Steve Hanson. (Thanks Steve.)

Questions on this should go to:

Linda Kleinschmidt
Chief of Staff

Office of State Senator Kathleen Vinehout
3 South State Capitol – PO Box 7882
Madison, WI  53707-7882
608-266-8546
1-877-763-6636


Senator Vinehout’s wikipedia page

Kathleen Vinehout’s Official Page