Mary Burke becomes first female major-party candidate for Wisconsin governor

Democrat Mary Burke has become the first woman nominated by a major party as a gubernatorial candidate in Wisconsin.
By Frances Burns  |  Aug. 13, 2014 at 10:41 AM
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MADISON, Wis., Aug. 13 (UPI) -- Mary Burke, now the official Democratic nominee for governor of Wisconsin, spent primary night on the campaign trail.

Burke, a former state secretary of commerce and executive with her family's company, Trek Bicycle, did put out a statement reminding the public she is the first woman to be chosen by a major party as its gubernatorial candidate in Wisconsin. But she appeared more concerned with attacking Gov. Scott Walker than celebrating.

"Under Governor Walker we rank dead last, tenth out of ten states in the Midwest, in private sector job growth," she said. "Wisconsin must do better than that, and with my jobs plan, Invest for Success, which is based on my experience in the private sector, we will."

Walker, a Republican in a state that leans to the Democrats in statewide races, appears to be locked in a tight race with Burke. A Marquette Law School poll released last month showed the two in a statistical tie, with Walker ahead by a single percentage point among registered voters and Burke ahead by the same amount among likely voters.

Walker, who won a narrow victory in 2010, did a little better in a 2012 recall election. That came after he pushed through legislation that deprived most public employees of collective bargaining rights.

While Burke faces a tough race in November, her primary win Tuesday was easy with more than 85 percent of the vote. Her opponent, state Rep. Brett Hulsey of Madison, had such a small war chest he was reduced to filming his own campaign videos with his iPhone.

Burke turned down all debates and did not campaign against Hulsey. She spent the evening talking to voters in Tomahawk and Stevens Point.

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, said Wisconsin is one of five states where incumbent governors are in tight races. Three are Republicans, Walker, Rick Scott of Florida and Rick Snyder of Michigan, and two Democrats, Dannel Malloy of Connecticut and Pat Quinn of Illinois, while Republican Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania is trailing his Democratic challenger by double digits.

Sabato said a Burke victory is by no means certain given that Walker has won twice already.

"Walker was never destined to win by more than a few points, and that's still well within the realm of possibility," Sabato said.

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