Former Trek exec Mary Burke enters Wisconsin governor's race
MADISON—Former Wisconsin commerce secretary and Trek Bicycle executive Mary Burke officially entered the race for governor on Monday, saying the state can and needs to do better when it comes to creating jobs.
The Harvard-educated businesswoman worked for Trek, a company her father founded in 1976, in a variety of capacities, including as its director of European operations, helping to start and oversee companies in seven countries.
“I know that Wisconsin workers can compete with anyone in the world. That’s why when you look around at places like Minnesota, Indiana and Ohio, whose economies are creating more jobs than ours, you wonder what the heck’s going on?” Burke said in a video announcing her candidacy.
“Wisconsin ranks 45th out of 50 states in projected job growth. We’re fifth from the bottom. I’m running for Governor because we can do better than that. A lot better. But to do it, we’ve got to make some real changes in Madison,” she said.
Many see Burke as the most viable Democratic candidate for governor because she can use her personal wealth to fuel her campaign and combat Walker’s fundraising prowess. The governor reported raising $3.5 million in the first half of this year.
Burke left Trek in 2005, when then-Gov. Jim Doyle tapped her to serve as Commerce Department secretary, a position she held for two years.
Joe Fadness, Republican Party of Wisconsin executive director, said Burke, as part of the Doyle administration, has a record of raising taxes on “hard-working families” and implementing policies that had a negative impact on the state.
“A vote for Mary Burke is a vote to take Wisconsin backward,” said Fadness in a statement issued Monday. “Burke was part of the team that left Wisconsin with a $3.6 billion budget deficit, big tax hikes, and massive job loss—a mess that was fixed by Governor Scott Walker.”
Republican Gov. Scott Walker is seeking re-election in 2014 after winning the governor’s office in 2010 and surviving a recall last year.
“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,” his campaign spokesman Jonathan Wetzel said in an email. “We’re confident that voters want to continue moving Wisconsin forward, and have no desire to return to the failed policies of the past. “
Burke also served as president of the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County for nine years, and along with the Burke Foundation, she has donated about $2.6 million to the district’s AVID/TOPS program. She also donated $2.5 million in 2011 to help start a Madison charter school, which the school board ultimately decided not to open.