With state schools Superintendent Tony Evers emerging as the Democratic candidate for governor in Tuesday's primary, State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, an Alma Democrat, accepted her defeat with grace and encouragement for supporters.
Vinehout’s election night gathering at the Madison Crowne Plaza hotel was a small affair with close supporters from her home district as well as several Madison supporters. Even before the race was called, the tone in the room was more somber than celebratory.
Pete Sammataro said he considers himself one of Vinehout more committed supporters, though his wife, who outfits supporters with bumper stickers and other items, is even more so. They represent a group of loyal supporters that Vinehout initially attracted when she entered the recall election against Gov. Scott Walker in 2012.
Despite serving a district located nearly 200 miles from Madison, she has developed a following here and her supporters, wearing orange t-shirts, have been visible at many forums and events throughout the campaign this spring and summer.
Sammataro said given the lack of constant poll feedback seen during presidential election years, he wasn't able to gauge how effective Vinehout’s campaign was. Still, her forthright personality and speaking ability have always appealed to him.
“With Kathleen you’ll get an answer when you ask her a question, you won’t get a talking point,” Sammataro said. “You’ll get a well thought out answer, sometimes in paragraph form.”
When Vinehout arrived at the party Tuesday night, she entered to the sound of applause, even after the Associated Press called the election for Evers. She greeted each supporter (and reporter) individually before eventually making her concession speech.
In her speech, Vinehout lauded the hard work of her supporters and said her belief that money can’t buy votes remains unchanged, even in the face of Evers' victory. She said that while she may have been outspent, only her campaign had volunteers willing to knock on 200 doors every day.
“I can’t tell you how many questionnaires ask ‘How much money do you have in the bank?’” Vinehout said. “Never do they ask ‘How many people have written songs about you?’”
Vinehout remained upbeat about the outcome of the election and said she would lend her support to the Evers campaign in whatever way possible, especially when it comes to letting him know “where the money’s buried.” At a candidate forum in Madison last week, Vinehout and Evers chose each other as the candidate they'd back if they weren't running themselves.
Vinehout isn't seeking reelection to her state Senate seat, and said she plans to take a long needed vacation from politics after the Nov. 6 general election, but declined to say whether she would run again in the future.
To end her speech, Vinehout unveiled a new shirt, with the words Girl Power emblazoned on the front. As to whether the gender of the Democratic candidate would have an impact on the race against Walker, Vinehout said she believes Democratic messaging will win out.
“This idea of people first was our mantra as a campaign, but it’s going to be the mantra of the Democrats,” Vinehout said.