MADISON, Wis. — Democratic candidate for governor Kathleen Vinehout is defending a character reference letter she wrote for a former legislative attorney after he was charged with possessing child pornography.
Vinehout, a state senator from Alma, wrote the letter in 2015 on behalf of David L. Lovell, who was convicted this June on five counts of child porn possession and sentenced to concurrent three-year prison terms on each count. Vinehout told the Cap Times in a story published Thursday that people won’t find anything objectionable in the letter she wrote.
“My mother taught me to hate the sin but not shun the sinner,” Vinehout said in a statement to the newspaper.
In the 2015 letter, Vinehout described Lovell as a “hardworking, intelligent, persistent, dedicated public servant” with “extraordinary diplomatic skills.” Lovell was the Legislative Council staff member assigned to a committee she chaired for four years. Vinehout was one of about a dozen people who wrote character reference letters for Lovell, but the only sitting member of the Legislature.
“I was shocked and disturbed when I learned of the allegations against Mr. Lovell,” Vinehout wrote in the letter. “The allegations are completely inconsistent with the skilled expert I worked with for eight years. I never observed him to engage in any behavior other than that of a dedicated professional.”
Republicans said Vinehout’s letter reflects poorly on her character.
“It is appalling that Kathleen Vinehout would abuse her platform as a public official to defend the character and excuse the actions of a man found guilty of possessing child pornography,” said Wisconsin Republican Party spokesman Alec Zimmerman. “Sen. Vinehout must apologize to Wisconsin’s families for her poor judgment, and Democrats statewide should disavow her actions.”
Vinehout launched her run for governor on Monday. She is one of seven announced Democratic candidates vying for a chance to take on Republican Gov. Scott Walker next year.