Meet Scott Walker’s First Democratic Challenger

Posted: Oct 07, 2013 2:00 PM
Meet Scott Walker’s First Democratic Challenger

Liberals and labor unions were practically giddy at the prospect of tossing Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker from office in 2012. They were unsuccessful. And their attempt to send him home early pretty much backfired. Now, of course, bracing for re-election in 2014, the Badger State governor is well positioned to secure another four-year term. But Wisconsin Republicans shouldn’t rest on their laurels just yet; national Democrats are deeply committed to putting together a winning coalition.

Enter Mary Burke. After several prominent Democrats politely declined to take on Walker in 2016, the torch seemingly passed to a former state secretary of commerce and self-proclaimed job creator. She is the first Democrat so far to announce a formal bid for her party’s nomination:

Mary Burke enters as the underdog against the likely 2016 Republican presidential contender, who prevailed in last year’s recall race by a greater margin than his original election.

Burke’s father created Trek Bicycle, and she worked there for nine years before serving the previous governor as secretary of commerce.

With bikes as the backdrop, Burke introduces herself as a job creator in a glossy 3-minute web video.

“Helping to turn my family’s business into a global company has been a big part of my life,” she said. “Now I’d like to help make our great state of Wisconsin even better.”

Meanwhile, Democrats are convinced that Walker is vulnerable -- and that his record on jobs is, well, less-than-stellar:

Democrats think Walker’s Achilles’ heel is jobs. When he ran in 2010, he promised to create 250,000 private-sector jobs by the end of his first term. He’s less than half way there and will ultimately fall short of the goal, but he’s maintained an approval rating around 50 percent.

Burke notes in her video that Wisconsin ranks 45th of the 50 states in projected job growth, according to Moody’s, trailing Midwestern neighbors like Minnesota and Ohio.

“I’m running for governor because we can do better than that, a lot better,” she said, without mentioning Walker by name. “Just like Washington, our state capitol has become so focused on politics and winning the next political fight, it’s pulling our state apart and our economy down.”

Walker’s campaign responded to her video by touting the governor’s success on other metrics.

“Under Governor Walker’s leadership, Wisconsin has balanced a $3.6 billion deficit, cut income taxes, and we’ve seen our best two-year job growth in a decade under any governor,” spokesman Jonathan Wetzel said in an email.

Walker’s (expected) broken promise on jobs is perhaps a setback but hardly a deal breaker; after all, his reforms have been largely successful and there’s no question he’s moving Wisconsin in the right direction. But as his own team concedes, Wisconsin is a purple state that the president won by seven percentage points in 2012. Remember, Scott Walker is a conservative running for re-election -- although a fairly popular one. Thus winning a second term is not necessarily etched in stone, no matter who (or how relatively unknown) his opponent is. Republicans should be smart and remember that.

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