Editors note: While Patch will report on all candidates' backgrounds and stances on the issues before the November election, this story focuses on state Rep. Jeff Stone's first Democratic opponent in a dozen years.
A Brookfield woman plans to return to Greendale — where she grew up, graduated high school and later taught — so she can make a run for the state Assembly seat held by Rep. Jeff Stone.
Kathleen Wied Vincent says she is a teacher, not a politician, but feels compelled to run because she wants to help heal the divided state and forge bipartisan solutions.
"I have seen family and friends completely torn apart from politics," she said. "People can not agree and they can't get along. There's a total lack of respect for one another on both sides…. I want to go up there and help bridge the state again. We deserve better than what's going on from both sides of the aisle."
Running as a Democrat in the November election, Vincent says she has the skills and experience to get both parties' leaders working together.
Stone, a Republican who has won re-election to the Assembly every two years since 1998 and lost to Chris Abele in a 2010 bid for Milwaukee County Executive, welcomed Vincent's election challenge. Stone said he has helped shepherd bipartian bills sought by Milwaukee Democrats for desired changes to business improvement districts and tax exemptions for youth baseball.
"I think elections are about ideas and kind of a vision for what you've done and where you'd like the state to go, and I look forward to having a discussion about it," he said.
Stone's first Democratic opponent since 2000
Stone said he had a Republican primary election opponent in 2010, but hasn't had a Democratic opponent since 2000.
Vincent said she will move from her family's rented Brookfield house into a dog-friendly apartment in the 82nd Assembly district that covers Greendale, Greenfield and Franklin. The law requires candidates to live in the district at least 30 days before the election, she said.
Stone said: "I'm a little surprised that somebody who's not living in the district and not here on a day-to-day basis would want to move to a different district and run."
Vincent said she was "coming home" and wants to serve the community where she has kept many connections.
Stone is well known in his district, having served as a Greenfield alderman from 1994 to 1998 before becoming a state lawmaker. He was born in Topeka, KS, and raised in Zanesville, OH, graduating from high school there. Stone earned a bachelor of arts degree in political science and history from Washburn University in Topeka in 1983 before moving to Wisconsin.
Vincent was born in West Allis and lived in Milwaukee until she was in third grade when her family (maiden name is Wied) moved to Greendale in 1976. Like each of her eight siblings — five sisters and three brothers, she graduated from Greendale High School. She obtained her bachelor of science in education from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1990.
Left Elmbrook to teach in Greendale
After teaching in Milwaukee Public Schools for six years, Vincent joined the Elmbrook School District for one year, teaching sixth grade at . Greendale Middle School Principal Charlie Herman recruited her to leave Elmbrook and join the Greendale School District, where she taught from 1996 to 2002.
"I was crying because I knew I had a good thing, who walks away from Elmbrook Schools?" Vincent said. "I did because I wanted to give back to Greendale, which gave me everything."
She moved to the Waukesha School District in 2002 and later worked as a substitute teacher for various districts, as a teacher at a Milwaukee Catholic school and this year, as a gifted and talented specialist in Merton.
A mother of two children, Vincent obtained her master's degree in education from Silver Lake College in Manitowoc and is a freshman girls softball coach at . She volunteers at several places, including the Elmbrook Humane Society, with her pet therapy dog and is finishing her last ticket toward earning her Wood Badge, the most advanced training for Boy Scout leaders.
"I am not a politician. I am a teacher," she said. "I'm not a union teacher, I'm not in a union at all. I've worked in public, private and charter schools."
Act 10 spurred political engagement
Before last year, she said, the only politician she had helped was state Rep. Peggy Krusick, a Democrat in her family's district. She voted for some Republicans — Walker for Milwaukee County Executive, Tommy Thompson and Ronald Reagan. "But I tend to be a little more liberal in my thinking. I'm also a Catholic," she said.
Things changed dramatically when Gov. Scott Walker announced he was proposing to end almost all public worker union bargaining.
Suddenly she found herself marching at the Capitol and working to get Walker recalled.
"I had never carried a protest sign in my life," she said. Her oversized Wisconsin license plate sign with the letters Recall Walker slung around her neck and her dog Nanook became fixtures at protests. She also joined the night time light brigades who lined Milwaukee area bridge overpasses with lit recall messages.
Vincent said parts of Act 10 were too extreme and other parts had merit.
"I say there has to be a happy medium, there does need to be some compromise there," she said. "We do need workplace safeguards. Are we going to start having 50- to 60-hour work week requirements?"
Popcorn offer preceded beer brat summit
She said she sat in lawmakers' offices that winter trying to persuade them to craft a bill both sides could accept. She brought two bags of popcorn to the Capitol offices of state Reps. Paul Farrow (R-Pewaukee) and Peggy Krusick (D-Milwaukee), asking them to sit down and talk over popcorn. They didn't take up her offer.
Vincent said she has learned how to work as a team through her diverse hikes in life: teaching, coaching, volunteering, boy scout leading, dog therapy training, softball league playing and being the first family to hike the entire state Ice Age Trail. She said she completed the Elm Grove Police Citizens Academy — not because she wanted to be a police officer, but because "I want to walk in people's shoes, I want to see what they do. I have a new respect for what they do."
All lawmakers, she said, should walk a day in the shoes of an educator.
Both Vincent and Stone said they look forward to discussing issues before the November election.
Vincent said she "would be honored" to work with Republicans and Democrats alike. "I think I have the passion, the concern, the heartbeat. I think I've tried to walk in their shoes," she said.
Stone said: "I've used my time in the Legslature to try to work together. I think I've got a reputation both in the district and in the Capitol (for bipartisanship)."