The Democratic Primary for governor may be crowded, but State Senator Kathleen Vinehout feels she is the right choice for the nomination. Vinehout represents the 31st district, located in western Wisconsin. She lives in Arcadia.
Vinehout was first elected to the State Senate in 2006. She managed to hold her seat even as many other Democrats were beaten at the polls by Republican challengers in 2010. Most recently, she won reelection in 2014 by receiving 52.4 percent of the vote over Republican candidate Mel Pittman’s 47.6 percent.
This is not the senator’s first bid for the governorship. Vinehout previously ran for governor in 2012 but lost to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in the Democratic Primary. She feels the result could have been different is she won the nomination.
“I come from a part of the state that Democrats have to win if they’re going to win statewide,” Vinehout said. “I’ve won three times in a district that Scott Walker won three times and Trump won. I come from a county where Trump got almost 70 percent of the vote, and a county that consistently elects me.”
Vinehout’s platform aims to expand affordable healthcare, make tuition free at tech colleges and two year UW campuses, raise wages and provide alternatives to incarceration for those suffering from addiction and mental illness.
Vinehout said her plan to make tech school and two year college free is modeled after a program implemented by the Republican Governor of Tennessee Bill Haslam.
“I strongly believe that finances should never be an obstacle to higher education,” Vinehout said. “One way to raise wages is to develop skills.”
With a legislative background, Vinehout feels her experience equips her better than the other candidates for the job of governor.
“I have a very different background than any of the other candidates, I have spent 12 years in the legislature,” Vinehout said. “I have served on the audit committee and spent a great deal of time being around, seeing how state government functions or doesn’t function.”
Vinehout has written four alternative state budgets as a rebuttal to Governor Walker’s budgets.
“I did that when the deep cuts to schools happened,” Vinehout said. “I knew that the excuse that there was no money in the budget was not true.”
She is the only member of the state legislature to have written and shared alternative budgets.
Because Vinehout will be up for reelection the same year she is running for governor, and she is prohibited by law from running for both positions, she is not seeking another term in the state senate.
Vinehout grew up the daughter of a union laborer.
“Other candidates say they can imagine what it is to walk in the shoes of someone who doesn’t have much,” Vinehout said. “I’ve walked in those shoes. I know what it’s like because I’ve lived it. I don’t think there’s anybody else in the race that can say that.”
The Democratic Primary is scheduled for Aug. 14.
You can reach Jake Ekdahl on Twitter @JakeaEkdahl