Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

EMILYs List Endorses Mary Burke, Leaves Sen. Kathleen Vinehout Out in the Cold

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Yesterday, the influential group EMILY’s List (Early Money is Like Yeast) endorsed Democratic candidate Mary Burke for the 2014 Wisconsin Gubernatorial race.  Their stated reason for doing so, according to the President of EMILY’s List, Stephanie Schriock, is that Burke has “been quietly changing the world for the better for years, by breaking barriers herself and by making opportunities for others to get ahead.”

But as the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s article said in an almost throwaway line, the person this really hurts is state Senator Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma).  Vinehout, one of the “Wisconsin 14” who stood up to Republican Governor Scott Walker and left the state due to the controversial Act 10 repealing collective bargaining for most public employee unions, ran for Governor during the 2012 recall race but didn’t really have the money to contend with the two top Democratic candidates, former Madison County Executive Kathleen Falk and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

Vinehout was my pick last time for Governor, mostly because I met her, listened to her positions, researched her, and knew that if the general public got any sense of her whatsoever — she’s a woman of substance who’s been a dairy farmer and a college professor, and is known as a “budget hawk” — I believed she’d beat Scott Walker.  Vinehout’s district is more Republican than not, yet she’s won re-election in that district, which means she has bipartisan appeal.

By EMILY’s List endorsing Burke — a woman who’s never been elected to state office, though she was appointed to state Commerce Secretary by former Governor Jim Doyle — this significantly hurts Vinehout.

Worse yet, Burke is a millionaire in her own right and a former executive at Trek Bicycle, a company her father founded.  (Please see this article from Blogging Blue about the problematic issues facing Burke if she continues her gubernatorial run.)  Which begs this question: Is big money the only reason Burke is getting these endorsements?

Currently, Burke sits on the school board in Madison.  While there’s nothing wrong with that, this is the only position she’s ever been elected to in her life.  Whereas Vinehout is a sitting state Senator who’s actually had to do something extremely difficult and take a stand — all while not getting paid in the process (as she is not wealthy, I’m sure this did not help her or her family much).

Overall, I’m deeply unhappy EMILY’s List has decided to endorse Burke.  From this vantage point, the only thing Burke has to offer is a whole lot of her own money to throw into the governor’s race.  She has no record to run on.  She has no idea how to improve things as a Governor because she’s never been elected to public office (excepting her current stint on the Madison school board).  She officially has “no platform” and has made “no promises,” according to the Wisconsin State Journal, which, as they put it, “has led some Democratic activists to express concerns about her candidacy” while union leaders and the main Democratic Party have largely been silent.

All these types of endorsements do is limit the prospects of candidates like Vinehout who might really have a chance if that big money came her way later on, favoring those who already have big money themselves or big money pledged, as now, from influential Democratic organizations.

Besides, I have a real problem with a woman who gets into a race but hasn’t a clue how to fix anything.  Especially when an outstanding candidate like Sen. Kathleen Vinehout is available.

If I were the state Democratic Party Chairman, Mike Tate, what I’d do is throw money at Vinehout.  Vinehout is by far the best chance we have in Wisconsin to take back the Governor’s chair.  She’s articulate, she’s funny, she’s an impressive candidate “on the stump,” she has been both a dairy farmer and a professor (you don’t get that combination very often), and she’s had to stand up for what she believed in by walking out of the Senate and leaving the state as one of the “Wisconsin 14.”

At an absolute minimum, I’d want a primary if I were Tate in order to improve Burke as a candidate.  Right now, Burke is a “one-percenter,” a millionaire who’s never had to face most of the issues most Wisconsinites face every single day.  Vinehout, on the other hand, is not wealthy and has had to face every single last one of them and can relate to most if not all Wisconsin voters.  If Burke has to debate Vinehout, Burke would either quickly improve or implode.

Either way, the state would win, the voters would win, and we’d get a far better chance to oust Scott Walker from the Governor’s chair.

One final thought: How does it improve democracy to run a well-heeled candidate with deep pockets who doesn’t have a clue how to run the state, especially when a much better candidate is available and all she needs is money to help her out?

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Written by Barb Caffrey

October 25, 2013 at 4:26 am

2 Responses

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  1. […] I knew this news was coming, but I’m still upset by it. As I wrote back in October, Mary Burke is an untested, unqualified candidate. Burke does not understand anything about the […]

  2. […] Because I’m a prognosticator by trade ( at least part of the time), I will point out that I didn’t think Burke was the answer for Wisconsin. […]


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