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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.

Kathleen Vinehout
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.

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.

Originally posted to Worley Dervish on Fri Apr 06, 2012 at 07:57 AM PDT.

Also republished by Badger State Progressive, ClassWarfare Newsletter: WallStreet VS Working Class Global Occupy movement, and Progressive Hippie.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (15+ / 0-)

    "The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die." --Edward M. Kennedy ♦ Worley Dervish on Facebook

    by MaryRW on Fri Apr 06, 2012 at 07:57:31 AM PDT

  •  Thank you. I like her a lot. n/t (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Puddytat, Giles Goat Boy

    I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night, alive as you and me.

    by plankbob on Fri Apr 06, 2012 at 08:31:55 AM PDT

  •  So glad you went. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Puddytat, Giles Goat Boy, WisVoter

    And I couldn't have said it better myself. (Hah, and didn't)
    We both seem to have  come away with the same thing. The amendment was not meant to take away women's rights.  She admits she could have done things better or differently.  She was not malicious. She  believes in us. That We The People are the ones to make a difference in this election.

    I want to hear it in the halls of Congress and on the Senate floor. Mic-check motherfuckers! Mic-check! One Pissed Off Liberal

    by vacilando on Fri Apr 06, 2012 at 08:56:23 AM PDT

  •  I have a serious problem (0+ / 0-)

    with her conscious clause.  I'm retired now, but I was an RN for decades and I know how these decisions play out.  I remember the bad old days of back alley abortions and women dying from sepsis.  And the prohibitions against effective birth control that left women almost perpetually pregnant with severe impacts on their lives and health.

    Particularly in rural areas, pharmacies are few and far between and what happens when objecting pharmacists work the same shifts in the closest pharmacies?  This sounds a lot like the "employers can decide if you get birth control or not" baloney that's currently on the radar.

    Plan B is another concern.  Those who need it can't wait for a ride to another pharmacy that, in rural areas, can be miles away.  It's very time sensitive.  

    And it's always women that are their targets.  Somehow pharmacists don't ever need to check out men before filling Viagra to make sure they're married and intend to use the med for marital sexual activities which are specifically done for procreation as their Church demands.  

    How about a pharmacist that has an attack of conscious about filling a high blood pressure med because his customer is eating a bag of salt laden chips while waiting for it to be filled?  Or filling a diabetic med because the patient is obese and drinking a Coke?  Or AIDS meds?  No, always women because society allows misogyny and their are politicians that go along with it, too.

    If a pharmacist is unwilling to fill every prescription presented, they should choose another line of work.  Politicians who allow people to deny services to others are opening Pandoras Box.  No individual should have that much power over the life or well being of another.

    We must stop allowing insurance companies, governments, employers, or pharmacists between women, their doctors, and their prescriptions.

    There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

    by Puddytat on Fri Apr 06, 2012 at 09:27:53 AM PDT

  •  Very good explanation... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MaryRW, WisVoter, Cady Brownell

    ...of the conscience amendment. If I had any hesitation, that was it, but I am satisfied that she was being practical and not a zealot. That was a tough vote for her, I'm sure, and I respect her willingness to address it head on, discuss it openly, and not resort to catch phrases and code words to hide her intentions.

    I believe she really takes seriously the idea that we have to  find ways to reach consensus and not just jam a bunch of partisan crap through the legislature like we've seen from Walker.

    "They are an entire cruise ship of evil clowns, these current Republicans"...concernedamerican

    by Giles Goat Boy on Fri Apr 06, 2012 at 09:49:10 AM PDT

  •  Video from Wednesday night (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    WisVoter, Giles Goat Boy

    Video of me asking Vinehout about the conscience clause. Sorry, I don't seem to be able to add the video here, but here's a link to it.

    "The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die." --Edward M. Kennedy ♦ Worley Dervish on Facebook

    by MaryRW on Fri Apr 06, 2012 at 10:20:57 AM PDT

  •  Tipped, recced and republished to (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Giles Goat Boy, MaryRW

    I started with nothing and still have most of it left. - Seasick Steve

    by ruleoflaw on Fri Apr 06, 2012 at 03:22:17 PM PDT

  •  Vinehout has a good plan for fixing school funding (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    CentralWIGuy

    I heard her on Wisconsin Public television on the Hear and Now show. She says she wants the funding for schools to be fixed for rural and urban areas so that they are not always in danger of cuts. (not her exact words, but the basic idea)
    I am very impressed that she brought this up. About 10-15 years ago we heard a lot more talk about school reform that meant making sure that ALL schools received equitable funding. Not much was ever done about it as far as I know.

    Rural and urban schools are at such a disadvantage when it comes to school funding.

    I liked when the host asked Vinehout if she would sign the pledge to have a clean campaign. She said, "I don't need to sign a pledge to have a clean campaign, I have always run a clean campaign." She just sounds so believable. I am very impressed with this candidate, she seems to be someone with a good mind for business, a  lot of common sense, a lot of integrity and open minded.

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