The continuing political turmoil in Wisconsin just might result with a former Springfield-area resident in that state’s governor’s office.

The continuing political turmoil in Wisconsin just might result with a former Springfield-area resident in that state’s governor’s office.

Wisconsin state Sen. KATHLEEN VINEHOUT, wife of former Illinois state Rep. DOUG KANE, D-Springfield, has announced she is a Democratic candidate for governor as Wisconsin moves toward an election that could result in a mid-term recall of Republican Gov. SCOTT WALKER.
“It’s going to be an interesting race,” Kane said.  “She’s never run statewide before.”

Kane and Vinehout lived in rural New Berlin until their move to a farm near Alma, north of LaCrosse, in 1995. Kane, who had served in the Illinois House from 1975-83, told me last week he is “pretty much of a retired farmer at this point.”

Vinehout, who worked at what is now the University of Illinois Springfield from 1985 to 1995 and directed graduate and undergraduate programs in health administration there, was elected to the Wisconsin Senate in 2006 and won a new four-year term in 2010. She was among Senate Democrats who came to Illinois to stall a vote on legislation — ultimately enacted — to effectively end collective bargaining rights for most public workers.

The backlash has included a recall effort that garnered a million signatures statewide. Kane said election dates haven’t been set, but he expects the Democratic primary will be about the first week of May, with the general election including Walker — whose first term started in 2011 — coming a month later. Independent or third-party candidates could also be on that special general election ballot.

Vinehout is far from the best-known potential Democratic nominee, and polling shows she has a ways to get to the top tier. Another announced candidate, former Dane County executive KATHLEEN FALK, ran twice statewide  and was the Democratic nominee for attorney general in 2006. Results of a 900-response poll done Feb. 23-26 were released last week by Public Policy Polling, Raleigh, N.C., and showed that Milwaukee Mayor TOM BARRETT, who lost the governor’s race to Walker in 2010, had a 49-46 percent advantage over Walker, with a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points. Barrett had not entered the new race for governor as of last week.

A head-to-head matchup in the poll showed Walker over Vinehout 46-44 percent, but pollsters also said results showed that 60 percent of respondents didn’t know enough about Vinehout to say if their opinion of her was favorable or unfavorable.

Kane said that if his wife should become governor, she would work to restore collective bargaining rights and reverse other changes, which he said have included the repeal of long-held civil service laws. He said the population in Wisconsin is “very divided” about Walker, with only 5 percent to 10 percent undecided about his future.

Meanwhile, Vinehout has been on the campaign trail.

“I haven’t seen her in about two weeks,” Kane said.

Walker the author
Former Illinois Gov. DAN WALKER is hoping a book he recently wrote will be published soon.
About 320 pages long, the working title is “Corruption Conquers: How Illinois and Chicago Came to be Called the Most Corrupt State and City in the Nation.”

Meanwhile, his co-author on a 300-page novel is working to make it available as an “e-book” online. Called “Assassin’s Game,” and about Illinois river casinos and the assassination a governor, it is co-written by PEGGY LANG of La Mesa, Calif.

Walker, 89, is soon to move with wife, LILY, from Rosarito Beach, Mexico, to a retirement home in Chula Vista, Calif. A reason for the move, he said, is living there will involve “less work for Lily.”

Walker was also quite concerned about the devastating tornado that hit Harrisburg last week. He said he had fond memories of people there from when he walked across the state in 1972, helping lead to his single term as governor.

Yes, Walker pleaded guilty in 1987 to financial crimes that arose mostly when a savings and loan he ran became insolvent, and he did prison time. But that all came about after he left the governor’s office, and for many years now, he’s been an author and thoughtful observer from afar of Illinois politics.

New to Quinn’s staff
KURT ANDERSON of Chicago and ANDRE JORDAN of Springfield are a couple of recent additions to Gov. PAT QUINN’s legislative staff.

Anderson, who spent 10 years as legislative director for the Illinois state council of the Service Employees International Union, joined the Quinn administration as an assistant chief of staff in the legislative department. Part of his duty is to be a House floor liaison.

“It’s an exciting time to be in state government,” Anderson said. He sought the job, and said former Transportation Secretary GARY HANNIG of Litchfield, who now runs Quinn’s legislative shop, “is a great guy to work with.”

Anderson, 47, lived in Springfield from 1998 — when he went to work in the capital city for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — until 2010.

He’s a Riverside native, has a degree in German from St. John’s University, Collegeville, Minn., and a paralegal degree from Roosevelt University in Chicago. He’s being paid $93,000 annually.
Jordan, 40, is a Springfield native and Springfield High grad with a political science degree from Mississippi Valley State University and a master’s in public administration from the University of Illinois Springfield.

He went to work as a rules analyst for the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules in 1998, moved to the Senate Democratic staff from 1999-2003, and from there went to Secretary of State JESSE WHITE’s staff, where he became chief deputy director of legislative staff and Senate liaison.

He joined the Quinn administration in November and he is assistant chief of staff, legislative affairs, and Senate floor liaison. He’s making $81,000 in the new job. He said he wanted to be involved with “some of the bigger issues” facing the administration.

“It’s a tough job, but I look forward to the challenge,” he said.

Bernard Schoenburg is political columnist for The State Journal-Register. He can be reached at 788-1540 or bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bschoenburg.