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.

Grab Bag ‘o’ Blogging: What’s the testimony on Wisconsin’s budget?, Waukesha clerk won’t resign, Huffington Post bloggers sue

What are people saying? – Wisconsin Democratic Senator Kathleen Vinehout

“Usually I begin this column with a local person’s question or comment. Today’s column is entirely quotes of people testifying on the Governor’s budget last Saturday.

“Wisconsin has a proud tradition of allowing its people to care for people -services to children, disabled, seniors and education to people of all ages…The Governor wants to be ‘open for business’ but he is not looking at the big picture…Wisconsin is quite unique in the quality of life it offers citizens,” — Accountant who moved from Texas to Wisconsin.

“Our education system is outstanding. Wisconsin is a wonderful place to live. I have lived in many other states and it is not like this.” — Local Grocer.

“We are being treated like we are naughty children. But we take our responsibilities very seriously. We have cut thirty positions. We’ve eliminated dozens of services. We need ‘tools’ that really work.” — City Council member.”

This is a great read. See it in full at Uppity Wisconsin

Or watch video of the hearings at WisEye.org

Chair of Waukesha County Dem. Party, called for immediate resignation of Kathy Nickolaus, the County Clerk of Waukesha County.

“Two things are becoming very clear after the initial reporting of the incident in the City of Brookfield last week. First, the vote counting and reporting process by the Clerk have been recognized as having problems in multiple elections by the Waukesha County Board, the media and various interest groups. And second, Ms. Nickolaus has willfully ignored pleas to repair her broken reporting process in an open and technologically reliable way….” from WisPolitics.com

Kathy Nickolaus Refuses to Resign

“Nickolaus issued a statement saying “I will serve the remainder of my term.  I understand why people are upset and I am taking this matter seriously.”

She again apologized for the mistake and said she is reviewing her procedures and asking for help from the Government Accountability Board in doing so.” from TMJ4

The Kathy Nickolaus Drinking Game

Take a shot of your drink of choice each time she says “human error”.

Make sure to keep one foot on the floor when you go to bed in order to keep the room from spinning.  From wileftistcocktailparty

(they thought she’d be doing a live conference.save this game for the next one, though.)

Striking Bloggers Now Sue Huffington Post

A group of HuffPo bloggers are now filing a class action lawsuit against the company seeking some of the millions that Arianna got when she sold it to AOL.( about $315 million due to the merger).

Jonathan Tasini, a writer for HuffPo and elsewhere, is behind the movement. Tasini is a union organization and long-time head of the National Writers Union. Ten years ago he successfully sued the New York Times over freelancer rights and won a $18 million settelement. – More at Cleveland Leader

To read about the suit in Tasini’s own words, see “Why I’m Suing Arianna Huffington et al–And How YOU Can Help” at his labor-focused blog Working Life

Smug-looking Man in Suit Dan Abrams says Why strike against Huffington Post now?

Note-Dan Abrams owns Mediaite, Geekosystem, Styleite and Sportsgrid which are all in the Abrams Media Network

“The Newspaper Guild and its 26,000-member union called for all unpaid Huffington Post contributors to withhold their work in support of a “strike” launched earlier this year by another organization…Wait, it is suddenly unethical because the company succeeded? And what exactly might be a “fair share?” The primary source of Huffington Post’s success is not the bloggers who write for free and generate comparatively little traffic (and therefore revenue) for the site. Rather, it’s the fact that Huffington Post simply became the best aggregator in the business… More at Mediaite

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

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

Senator Vinehout’s wikipedia page

Kathleen Vinehout’s Official Page