Mary Burke, a former Trek Bicycle Corporation executive and member of former Gov. Jim Doyle’s administration, announced she is running for the Democratic Party nomination to challenge Gov. Scott Walker in the 2014 gubernatorial race.
Burke sent out a short video Monday morning announcing her candidacy, which highlighted the state’s poor performance in job growth as her main reason for running.
“Just like Washington, our state Capitol has become so focused on politics and winning the next political fight, it is pulling our state apart and our economy down,” Burke said in the video. “But it doesn’t have to be that way.”
In a press conference Thursday, Burke said she plans to focus on job creation, which she said is a priority for the people of Wisconsin.
During her time at the Department of Commerce under Doyle’s administration, Burke said Wisconsin had 80,000 more jobs and an unemployment rate of 4.8 percent.
To grow the economy in Wisconsin, job creation and education must go hand in hand, Burke said.
A current member of the Madison Metropolitan School Board, Burke said she thinks education can improve statewide, but said research is inconclusive on whether the recent voucher school program expansion will benefit or hurt students.
“Anytime we have an expansion of a program like a voucher program, it should be based on [the] best practices on research,” Burke said. “I think the research is still out as to whether vouchers do improve student learning or in fact are draining resources from our public education.”
Burke said as governor she would not have allowed Act 10, the budget measure that cut collective bargaining rights for public employees, to be written into law. However, Burke did not say whether she had plans to repeal the law if elected.
Lisa Subeck, a United Wisconsin spokesperson, said the group was excited to hear Burke’s announcement but have not decided to endorse a candidate yet.
“Mary Burke has significant experience in economic development, having created jobs right here in Wisconsin in her position as executive of Trek,” Subeck said. “Quite frankly, Walker has failed the people of Wisconsin in his promises of job creation.”
However, Jonathan Wetzel, spokesperson for Friends of Scott Walker, said he is confident voters will look to continue Walker’s plans for the state.
“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,” Wetzel said in an email to The Badger Herald.
The Republican Party of Wisconsin also issued several statements in response to Monday’s announcement, condemning Burke’s personal wealth and her role in the Doyle administration’s policy of raising taxes and spending.
Burke, however, did not answer questions about her personal wealth or its relation to the campaign funds.
According to the Republican Party statements, Burke spent $128,000 of her personal funds in her Madison school board race in 2012. The statements also cited her past vacations and time spent living out-of-state as reasons why she is “out of touch with Main Street, Wisconsin.”
Despite these charges, Subeck said that she has personally interacted with Burke and could vouch for her “down to earth” character.
“Mary Burke is the kind of person we see in our schools, sitting side-by-side with our children,” Subeck said. “That is just about the most in-touch you can get.”
State Editor Madeleine Behr contributed to this article.