Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke campaigns in Hudson
By Micheal Foley
New Richmond News Editor
More than 60 devoted western Wisconsin Democrats gathered at Paddy Ryan’s Irish Pub in Hudson on Sunday, Dec. 1, to hear Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke deliver a stump speech for an election still 11 months away.
Burke, daughter of Trek Bicycle founder Richard Burke, formally announced her candidacy to unseat Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in October. Election Day is Nov. 4.
When St. Croix County Democrats co-chairman Roy Sjoberg introduced Burke, he explained how Walker has fallen well short of his goal of creating 250,000 jobs in the state, and that Burke’s experience would make her a better job creator than the current governor. But Burke said there wasn’t a single driving force behind why she decided to run for governor.
“It’s multifaceted, because Wisconsin has so much potential, and there are so many ways we can create jobs and improve lives for people in Wisconsin,” Burke said. “Education certainly is one area where now we’re headed on a path toward a statewide voucher program, which drains funds from our local neighborhood schools and has absolutely no accountability around improving student learning.”
She also mentioned “weakening of our environmental legislation” and “the assault on women’s freedom to make their own healthcare choices” and “voting rights” as key issues she will campaign on.
“I’d say that there are a lot of important areas that are critical to Wisconsin’s future,” Burke said.
For most people in the room, it was the first chance to meet Burke and hear her speak. In addition to working as a Trek executive, Burke also served as Wisconsin Secretary of Commerce under Gov. Jim Doyle.
The backbone of Burke’s campaign is built on her business and commerce secretary experience, but she also is proud of work in the nonprofit sector, including helping establish an organization dedicated to helping children become the first members of their family to attend college.
“Whether it’s in the private sector, whether it’s as an entrepreneur, whether it is in government, or a nonprofit in education, these are all issues I have taken on and have brought people together,” Burke said.
Job creation vs. outsourcing?
While the fact that Burke’s roots are firmly planted in Waterloo, Wis.-based Trek Bicycle, one event attendee showed concern that Republicans would use against her the fact that Trek outsources many of its manufacturing jobs.
“Trek works really hard to keep jobs right here in Wisconsin,” Burke said. “Trek employs nearly 1,000 people here in Wisconsin, and over the last few years its payroll in Wisconsin has more than doubled.”
She added that the company buys more than $40 million worth of goods and services from other Wisconsin companies, which helps keep people employed at other companies around the state.
“Trek manufactures more bikes in the United States than any other bicycle company,” Burke said. “But it’s a tough industry, and it’s sort of if you’d go out and try to buy a TV that’s made in the United States. Unfortunately, all of Trek’s competitors make all of their bikes overseas.”
Burke wouldn’t commit to a yes-or-no answer on whether she would attempt to repeal Act 10, if elected, but she said she would work to restore collective bargaining. The controversial law that curbed most collective bargaining for most state employees is still being challenged in court.
“What I believe is that our public-sector employees should have the right to collectively bargain,” Burke said. “There were changes that needed to be made around contributions to healthcare and pensions, but those were on the table. As governor, I would have negotiated firmly, but fairly for the changes that were made.”
Burke didn’t lay out exactly what her approach would be in restoring tax reciprocity with Minnesota, but she did acknowledge the issue.
“We have to make sure we are balancing our budget, and we’re doing it in a way that’s fair to the people in Wisconsin,” Burke said. “Certainly along our borders with both Illinois and Minnesota we have issues with regard to reciprocity. As governor, I would look seriously at them and see if we do need to make changes that would be more fair.”
:Campaigning in western Wisconsin
Due to living in the Twin Cities media market, voters in St. Croix and Pierce counties often feel neglected by statewide political candidates, but Burke vowed to return to the area later in her campaign before next November’s election.
“It’s very important. I will be back,” Burke said. “It is an important area of the state, and there’s no vote I’m going to leave unturned. I will get out and be around the entire state, certainly here in St. Croix County.”
After her midday stop in Hudson, Burke hit the road for events later in the day in Polk and Washburn counties.