State Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, will announce today she is running for governor of Wisconsin. Vinehout briefly considered a run in the Democratic gubernatorial primary four years ago but a car accident cut the campaign short. In 2012, Vinehout finished a distant third with 4 percent of the vote in the Democratic gubernatorial primary in the recall election behind Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk.

Vinehout has already released a campaign video, sometimes slightly unfocused and pixelated, with her announcement.

While Vinehout attracted some attention as a “grass-roots” alternative (no money) to Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke four years ago, it will be interesting to see what the progressive wing thinks of Vinehout now. Vinehout once told the National Catholic Reporter, “I’ve been told that if I run as a ‘pro-life Democrat’ that I won’t get any union money, Sierra Club money or environmental money.”

Vinehout plans to soft-peddle her pro-life stance when she runs for office. “If somebody asked, ‘How do you feel [about abortion],’ I’d tell them,” said Vinehout, but she will go out of her way to avoid the “pro-life Democrat” label.

While Vinehout’s record as a legislator would not be confused with being pro-life, she irritated the pro-abortion wing of the Democratic Party with her amendment to a bill to protect the “individual conscience” right of pharmacists not to dispense birth control. State Rep. Chris Taylor, D-Madison, told Isthmus, “Can you trust this person to do what she says she will do?”

But should she get through the crowded Democratic primary, Vinehout could prove to be an easily picked-on target for the Republican Party. Vinehout is for universal health care, complete with the tax increases, and once wrote a four-page poem attacking a political opponent. In 2011, Vinehout was one of 14 senators who fled the state to avoid voting on Act 10.

Vinehout’s term as state senator is up in 2018, meaning she cannot run for re-election if she runs for governor past the filing deadline next year. Vinehout won in 2006 with 51.6 percent, in 2010 with 50.2 percent, and in 2014 52.4 percent of the vote.

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