State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma) represents a huge area in northwestern Wisconsin centered on Eau Claire. She has worked her way up from being a nurses aide through the health care industry and ended up a college professor. In a 180-degree move, Vinehout became the primary operator of a dairy farm. In 2006, Vinehout took another career path and became a state senator, a seat she was re-elected to in 2010.
Now, she sees bigger things for herself — as the governor of Wisconsin.
Vinehout is one of four Democrats — former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug LaFollette — running for a chance to face Gov. Scott Walker in the June 5 gubernatorial recall.
Q1: Why are you running for governor?
“We need to heal the divisions among us and stop putting management against labor and private employees against public employees,” Vinehout said. “We have significant problems in this state and we need the best efforts of everybody to find solutions.”
She said Wisconsin needs to find a new way to govern by involving the people. Vinehout wants the citizens for the state to be involved in the solutions.
Q2: What distiguishes you from the other Democrat candidates in the primary?
“I have a different background coming into politics later in life,” Vinehout said.
In addition to her careers as a medical provider, educator and farmer, Vinehout’s six years in the state senate have given her a unique perspective on the real problems and issues facing the state.
“I have dealt with all the major issues as Co-Chair of the Senate’s Audit Committee. Health, education, employment, budgets. I’ve delved deep into the issues and I am not afraid to advance solutions.”
Vinehout proudly recalls her attempts to modify Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011-13 biennial budget by proposing one of her own that recognized the public’s desire to hold taxes in line but still focus on education, health care and women’s issues.
“I’ve done more for public education in the six years I’ve been in the Senate than Gov. Walker ever will,” she said. “I’ve been recognized by numerous school district superintendents for that fact.”
“The funding of public education and what the future of education in Wisconsin will look like in the future,” Vinehout said. “The coming cuts next year are greater and the problems coming are graver.”
She pointed to the latest news from the Kenosha Unified School District where officials announced the delivery of 250 pink slips for the next school year, on top of the 300 lay-offs of staff during the current year.
“What we are seeing under Scott Walker and the Republican legislature is the privatization of public education,” she said.
In addition to public education, Vinehout said the overall management of state government.
“It’s a problem not being discussed, but we have ineffective programs, the privatization of public programs and a vast network of shadow agencies that are not answerable to the people,” Vinehout said.
Q4: Are you seeking endorsements or money from unions or out-of-state money? Why or why not?
“I have a very simple answer. If you don’t like money in politics and don’t like someone telling you who to vote for — I’m your candidate,” Vinehout said.
“This is a grassroots campaign about the people. It is funded with small donations by people who want a change in political campaigns.”
Q5: What is the first thing Gov. Kathleen Vinehout will do on June 6?
The first thing Vinehout will do is change the signs at the state line, removing the “Open for Business” slogan Gov. Walker so publicly unveiled and replacing them with signs that read “Open for Everyone.”
“It’s symbolic, but we have to come together in this state,” she said. “It is the only way to solve the problems.”
The gubernatorial recall primary is Tuesday, May 8. Continue to visit ThirdCoast Digest for more 5Qs with the other Democratic candidates in the race.