Burke, Walker dramatically different

Matt Pommer Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke often is described as "a non-ideological antidote" to Republican Gov. Scott Walker in this fall's election. The 55-year-old Burke is a millionaire who didn't become a Democrat until she wa...

Matt Pommer

 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke often is described as “a non-ideological antidote” to Republican Gov. Scott Walker in this fall’s election.

The 55-year-old Burke is a millionaire who didn’t become a Democrat until she was in her 40s. Democratic liberals did not rush to her cause when she announced her candidacy for governor. Perhaps it was her late entry into the party or perhaps it was her centrist views.

Burke supports collective bargaining, but she has bluntly told union leaders that her election would not mean returning public employee bargaining with binding arbitration to what it was before Walker and Republicans effectively gutted the law in 2011.

There are dramatic differences between Burke and Walker. Burke, who grew up in Hartford, Wis., holds a bachelor’s degree in finance from Georgetown University and a master’s degree in business administration.


Walker, who grew up in Delevan, Wis., left Marquette University without a degree.

Burke says she would take federal money for the full expansion of health care for the poor. That expansion would save several hundred million dollars in Wisconsin tax dollars.

Walker rejected the full expansion, saying the federal government might renege on its commitment in future years. Turning down federal money for Wisconsin could help Walker’s hopes of getting to the White House in 2016.

The governor has refused to promise to serve out a full four-year second term if re-elected.

To date Burke has not challenged him on that position.

Burke says women and their physicians, not state government, should be in charge of making individual health decisions. The last people who should be involved “are Madison politicians,” according to Burke.

Walker has supported anti-abortion efforts and state funding for Planned Parenthood has been eliminated.

Another equally clear issue is the creation of a huge iron mine in northern Wisconsin. Burke has opposed weakening environmental standards while Walker touts easing mining rules as a major achievement of Republicans.


The proposed mine popped back into the gubernatorial race late this summer with reports the mining company gave $700,000 in campaign contributions to help Walker and Republican state senators in the 2012 recall elections. The environmental changes came after the recall elections.

Burke served as secretary of commerce for less than three years, resigning on Nov. 1, 2007. That was before recession dramatically dampened the American economic outlook. Burke cites a good jobs picture when she left office. But Republicans seek to link her to the full eight years of the administration of Democrat Jim Doyle who was governor from 2003 to 2011.

The recession began to bite most of America in 2008 and played a major role in election of President Obama.

The Wisconsin gubernatorial race is a statistical dead heat, according to an August poll taken by the Marquette University Law School. It showed a dramatic gender split. Among likely female voters, Burke led 56 to 38. Among likely male voters, Walker led 57 to 40.

Respondents in the August poll were asked their view of the job picture. Some 48 percent said the state was lagging. That was up five percent from a July Marquette poll.

Burke has some potential major hurdles in her bid to be governor. Walker has far more financial resources. Two debates are scheduled for October, and Walker is an experienced politician in debates.


Matt Pommer, a retired reporter for The Capital Times, writes a column distributed by the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.



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