Democrat Vinehout promises free tuition as governor

Posted at 11:59 AM, Sep 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-25 18:15:55-04

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Democratic state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, a farmer from western Wisconsin who has spent the last decade in the Legislature, launched her run for governor Monday, saying she wants to expand health care coverage, fix the school aid formula and make tuition free at all of the state's technical and two-year colleges.

Vinehout, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in the 2012 recall and briefly in 2014, released a campaign video and planned to address supporters Monday night in Black River Falls.

"I am running for governor to put people first at the center of state policy and the top priority when it comes to spending the state's dollars," she said in her remarks as prepared for delivery. "My vision for tomorrow is very different from where the state is today."

Vinehout becomes the seventh announced Democratic candidate hoping to take on Republican Gov. Scott Walker next year. There are about 10 other Democrats who have said they are considering getting into the race. The primary is just under 11 months away on Aug. 14.

Walker's campaign manager Joe Fadness, who rarely weighs in on developments on the Democratic side, criticized Vinehout in a message on Twitter, referencing her vote in 2007 for a universal health care plan in Wisconsin that would have been paid for with $15 billion in tax increases.

"No greater contrast: tax-cutting governor v. author of largest tax hike in WI history," Fadness tweeted. "Walker cuts taxes for families, Vinehout raises them."

The Healthy Wisconsin health care plan Vinehout and all other Democratic state senators supported in 2007 died under Republican opposition.

Vinehout, of Alma, said in her prepared remarks that as governor she wants to "turn the state's priorities upside down" by emphasizing local control and accepting the federal Medicaid money Walker has repeatedly rejected to pay for other priorities, including alternatives to prison.

Vinehout criticized Republican tax breaks for the wealthy and large corporations, as well as the $3 billion incentive package for electronics manufacturer Foxconn Technology Group approved by the GOP-controlled Legislature and signed into law by Walker earlier this month.

"Wisconsin needs a real leader, a leader who listens, who does their homework and focuses on solving the problems people have in their daily lives," Vinehout said in her video.

Vinehout, 59, was first elected to the state Senate in 2006 after working 10 years as a college professor and 10 years as a dairy farmer. She first ran for governor in the 2012 recall election against Walker, coming in third in the five-person primary with 4 percent of the vote. She was mounting a run in 2014, but dropped out in January of that year as she recovered from a car accident that badly injured her arm.

Democrats already in the race this year include state Superintendent Tony Evers, state Rep. Dana Wachs, Milwaukee businessman Andy Gronik, political activist Mike McCabe and political newcomer Bob Harlow.

Gronik said he has "great respect" for Vinehout and welcomed her to the race saying: "I love competition." Evers' campaign spokesman Nathan Henry declined to comment. Wachs' campaign manager Jake Hajdu issued a statement that did not address Vinehout's joining the race. Others had no immediate comment.

Other Democrats still considering getting into the race include Madison Mayor Paul Soglin, former state Rep. Kelda Roys and Mahlon Mitchell, head of the state firefighters union.