Democrat Mary Burke is only making one promise as she launches her campaign for governor: no promises.
Updated: October 16, 2013 - 3:25 PM
MADISON, Wis. — Democrat Mary Burke is only making one promise as she launches her campaign for governor: no promises.
Burke, in an interview with The Associated Press, said she will not be making specific commitments on some of the biggest issues in the race, including whether she would undo Gov. Scott Walker's law that effectively ended collective bargaining for public workers.
Burke also said she won't make any specific job creation promises, such as Walker's 2010 pledge to create 250,000 private sector jobs over four years. He's only about a quarter of the way there after two years.
"I get into this race not making any promises," Burke said Tuesday. "The only promise I'm going to make to the people of Wisconsin is that every single day as governor, I would wake up 110 percent committed to the priorities that are important to them, which are creating good paying jobs. That's how I come at things. There's a lot of pieces that go into that. I'm not going to make any promises with regards to specifics people want to see."
Walker campaign spokesman Jonathan Wetzel said Walker was moving the state forward and voters will not want to change course.
"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 Wednesday in a statement.
Burke's hesitancy to state concrete positions on collective bargaining and other hot-button issues, or perhaps her strategy to stay mum on such subjects, has led some Democratic activists to express concerns about her candidacy. State and local union leaders, meanwhile, mostly have remained silent about her campaign. Several contacted Wednesday either did not return messages or offered no comment.
Burke, a former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive and state Commerce Department secretary, launched her campaign last week. She is the only Democrat in the race so far, although Democratic Sen. Kathleen Vinehout has said she is considering a run and will make a decision by early next year.
Burke has made few public appearances and said little about what her campaign platform will look like. She did commit in the AP interview to accepting federal funding to pay for expanded Medicaid coverage, but on most other major issues she's been far less specific.
Among the bigger considerations is whether Burke would attempt to repeal the law that led to the recall campaign against Walker.
Passed in 2011, the law known as Act 10 effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers. It sparked weeks of protests and the massive petition drive that led to the 2012 recall election. But the recall revealed divisions among Democrats over the collective bargaining restrictions. Labor unions backed Kathleen Falk to run against Walker, not Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who went on to win the Democratic primary but to lose the recall election to Walker. Vinehout came in a distant third in the primary.
Burke signed the petition to recall Walker and met with union leaders before launching her campaign, but she hasn't taken a concrete stand on the collective bargaining law.
Marty Beil, executive director of the Wisconsin State Employees Union, said he met with Burke for the first time on Wednesday. He said he was happy with how the meeting went but he got no assurances from her on collective bargaining.
"There was really no commitment to anything," Beil said. "It was more of a general discussion."
Burke said this week that she supports collective bargaining for public workers but stopped short of saying she would seek to change the law.
"I would work with the Legislature to make sure we're able to put in place the mechanisms that are going to accomplish that mission of having an engaged workforce that has a voice at the table and is committed to the work that we need to do," Burke said.
Burke said her approach on collective bargaining and creating jobs is "to make sure we get people at the table, we put all the options out there and we evaluate them based on what are the best practices and what is most likely to move us forward."
Burke made one promise about her plans for creating jobs: "As we move through the campaign, I'll certainly get into more specifics."
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