Mary Burke made history Tuesday when she became the first woman nominated by a major party for governor in Wisconsin after handily winning the Democratic primary election.
The race for the state house will be one of the most watched of the fall. Burke, a former cabinet member for Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, will officially face off against incumbent Gov. Scott Walker in November. Burke has been running a strong campaign, and the most recent Marquette Law School Poll showed her in a dead heat with Walker at 47% to 46%.
Burke has run a campaign focused on education, jobs and economic issues, and she has focused on the fact that Wisconsin ranks last in the Midwest in private sector job growth. She has also made improving public education in the state a priority. One of Walker’s first acts as governor was to sign into law a measure that effectively ended collective bargaining rights for public employees, which included teachers.
This will be Walker’s third campaign in four years; this year’s match-up is the closest of the three. After massive protests over Walker’s anti-union bill led to crackdowns at the Capitol building and heated legislative sessions, voters successfully triggered a recall election. Walker survived the 2012 challenge from Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, whom Walker also defeated in 2010.
Walker has run a series of ads aimed at outsourcing at Trek bicycle, where Burke was an executive. But according to an investigation by WKOW-Madison, companies that received funds from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation under Walker later laid off workers and moved jobs out of the country.
Burke beat State Rep. Brett Hulsey with 83% of the vote. Burke has been the presumptive nominee since she entered the race in October. Hulsey entered the race in April but struggled to gain any traction. During his recent years in the state Legislature, Hulsey’s erratic, often belligerent behavior alienated many of his colleagues. His campaign reportedly raised only $2,500 in the first half of the year, most of it from Hulsey himself.
Wisconsin has made strides in gender equity in government in recent years. Tammy Baldwin became the state’s first female Senator -- and the nation’s first openly gay Senator -- in 2012. Milwaukee-area Rep. Gwen Moore became the state’s first African-American member of Congress in 2004.