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Wisconsin Debate: Kathleen Vinehout Has Best Response, Kathleen Falk Has Worst Response

May 4, 2012

It was the best of times.

It was the worst of times.

It was the Wisconsin Democratic Primary debate just days before voters head to the polls to elect the person who will challenge Scott Walker in the recall election.

I like and very much admire Kathleen Falk, but whomever has been advising her on how best to respond with full thematic and meaningful answers to questions has not done the campaign any favors.

On Friday night there was a great question about what steps each of the candidates would take once elected, and leading up to being sworn into office.

For the umpteenth time Kathleen Falk spoke about her 14 years of experience in Dane County, and how she negotiated and helped to create jobs.  Yes, Falk has a very impressive background, and it is one reason I am going to vote for her in the primary.

But it seems to me after having watched a couple of the debates, and followed the press reports rather closely that Falk has a few paragraphs of talking points that gets presented over and over.

With all due respect I am tired of them.  I think most voters are too.

Anyone who watched the debate on Friday night must have wondered where the answer was once Falk finished telling everyone she was an elected woman from Dane County, but missed a golden opportunity to respond to the steps that comes after being elected.  There were enough words to fill the minute alloted to her for an answer, but nothing that would have made a voter feel any reason to pull the lever for her.

And that to me is sad.  Falk is most capable, and yet she seems tied to some sentences in a campaign script that make her look empty of other thoughts. If that is her way of introducing herself to voters I have to question the other options that were left on the cutting room floor.

She might have spoken about bridging the divide with meetings and coffee with legislators from both sides of the aisle, or forming a working group to start dealing with needed issues such as a venture capital bill, or mining legislation.  Granted, the last one has political risks associated with it, but hopefully in June we are going to elect a leader and not just a governor.

But Falk seemed too interested in those talking points question after question.  And it left me feeling too much time was squandered.

Meanwhile Kathleen Vinehout sent one response sailing over the walls of the ballpark when she looked into the eyes of the questioner and the audience at home and spoke about the need to make sure laws are followed, and the process of government treated with respect.


I clapped my hands, put my hand on James’ shoulder, and told him that is what Wisconsin needs to hear.

Debates, and I can hardly stand that term for the event that was on television tonight, should be robust exchanges that move the dialogue forward.

What was presented instead was a series of statements and remarks that have been given multiple times so that the other candidates know what is coming, and how they will then respond.

In the end Tom Barrett won the debate, and is on his way to winning the primary come Tuesday.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Luna Ante Sol permalink
    May 6, 2012 1:46 PM

    Here is something to think about for those who are “into” the media hype.
    Seriously, if we cannot look beyond simplistic rhetoric of name recognition – what chance does any democratic candidate stand? We need a candidate behind whom everyone can unite. Falk just doesn’t fit that description. Too many dems don’t like her. Vinehout is simply the most well rounded candidate who appeals to the largest cross section of voters. Since the winner of the primary will have the media beating down their door, it is short sighted to cite name recognition as the deciding factor. Beating Walker is worth an in depth look at every candidate. Easy decisions do not always win the day.

  2. Jesse Holst permalink
    May 6, 2012 10:15 AM

    Name recognition is mostly irrelevant in a recall election. Also *any* nominee is going to be a household name in every corner of the state in a matter of minutes. We can run Falk and lose, run Barrett and flip a coin, or run Vinehout and make a strong connection with the rural voters of this state.

    Both Falk and Barrett fit very neatly into the GOP narrative. Falk is ‘an elistist liberal from liberal Madison’ and Barrett is ‘the liberals want a do-over on the election’. Vinehout is the only candidate who changes the dynamic and the narrative.

  3. Mark E. Bye permalink
    May 6, 2012 9:06 AM

    I’ve been impressed with Vinehout since she and 13 of her fellow compatriots left the state for an extended period last year. And despite my disagreement on a few of her positions/votes, I think she would make a great Governor. At this particular time, however, we need someone that can take Walker out. Period. I just don’t think that Vinehout enjoys the name recognition needed to get her across the finish line this time around. I do hope that she uses this experience as a building block and that we will see Kathleen Vinehout live to battle again.

  4. May 5, 2012 9:41 PM


    My lack of correct baseball lingo is one reason I was never asked to work on-air play-by-play (or even color) when employed in broadcasting. I was fine with that then, and need to remind myself it still bores me today. I should never try to use such a phrase when blogging. Thanks again!

  5. May 5, 2012 9:35 PM


    You are correct. I should have said “hit over the walls of the ballpark”.

    Made the change in the post, and thanks for the comment.

    I am not a huge sports fan as you now know.

  6. Todd permalink
    May 5, 2012 9:10 PM

    Please, please, please tell me what “sailing over the walls of the backfield” means. If you are going to use a sports analogy…at least have a clue. Politics has turned into a circus because every clown wants to be part of it.

  7. Jesse Holst permalink
    May 5, 2012 5:58 PM

    If Act 10 and the Capitol Protests were enough to change the electoral landscape in and of themselves, then we would have celebrated Justice Kloppenburg. We aren’t. the fact is that the 50% + 1 strategy of boosting turnout in Mad/Mil to overcome the rest of the state is a losing strategy. Senator Vinehout is the ONLY candidate that has an electoral track record of appealing to moderate and rural voters. Any dem is going to win Mad/Mil. Will we choose a candidate who can also win Eau Claire, Wausaw, Rhinelander, and Ripon(!?)?

    We need an electoral buffer to overcome election fraud in Waukesha. The 97% turnout they boast can’t be real. 50.01% isn’t going to cut it.

  8. May 5, 2012 2:37 PM

    No one was even close to Vinehout. WOW. Loved the detailed fixes! If Falk or Barrett win the primary, we will lose the race. The “safe” choice will not reach the moderate Republicans who also worked on the recall and we will need every vote. Vinehout is the only candidate who has the grassroots credentials necessary to win a grassroots powered movement. Whoever wins the primary will have the full force of the recall at their back plus national media. Vinehout can win it. Falk can’t. Barrett has lost twice already. Think about it

  9. May 5, 2012 12:13 PM

    I’ve already voted for her. She seems so smart, has plans, a budget, and LIKES DETAILS! We need a policy wonk. That’s what she is, yet she is also personable and has a great sense of humor and is not full of herself.

    Go Kathleen Vinehout.

  10. Lisa permalink
    May 5, 2012 9:54 AM

    “I clapped my hands, put my hand on James’ shoulder, and told him that is what Wisconsin needs to hear.” But I’m not going to vote for her? I see the Republicans wringing their hands in glee as they watch the Democrats pass over the candidate with the plan, the policy, and the fortitude to withstand Walker’s attacks. Everyone seems to agree that Vinehout has the best policy, yet they can’t bring themselves to move forward with her. It feels like battered woman syndrome. You know you should leave, you know there’s help available, you’ve probably even reached out for help, but the fear of what happens next is stronger than the fear of the disaster that’s happening right now.

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