Cullen: Mary Burke is "alternative" to Gov. Walker

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Neil Johnson
Friday, November 1, 2013

JANESVILLE—At a lunch meet and greet in Janesville, State Sen. Tim Cullen introduced Mary Burke, the presumptive Democratic frontrunner for the 2014 state gubernatorial race, as an "alternative" to Gov. Scott Walker.

Cullen, D–Janesville, speaking to several dozen residents and local politicians at Time Out Pub & Eatery, scorned Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who Cullen claims has “lurched to the right” to prove to the national Republican Party that he's a viable future presidential candidate.

Cullen then lauded Burke, who he introduced as “a terrific alternative” to Walker.

Yet some are still trying to figure out exactly what that means—and what Burke's political stances are.

Burke--former Trek Bicycle company executive, former Secretary of Commerce under Democrat Gov. Jim Doyle and a Madison School Board member--said she seeks to strengthen public education and boost job creation, particularly in the small business sector.

Yet Burke's made more headlines in recent weeks for rebuffing news reporters who've tried to pin her down on her views on taxes and labor.

And some state Republican lawmakers have attacked her for not taking a definitive stance on issues that have polarized state lawmakers and the public: taxes and collective bargaining reforms tied to Gov. Scott Walker's Act 10.

Burke would not say whether she'd seek to raise or lower taxes or whether she'd seek to change Act 10. She said she's gone on record against Act 10's provisions, which have all but erased collective bargaining from public employee union negotiations.

“I have been clear in saying I believe our public sector employees should have the right to collectively bargain. I would want to work in a way that makes sure we are able to attract and retain and have a highly motivated public sector workforce. That, to me, is part of making sure the state moves forward,” she said.

In the same interview, Burke sidestepped the question about whether she'd raise or lower taxes, saying the state must “use people's tax money wisely, and living within the means of the taxpayers.”

Burke instead sought to shift the focus to the state's current budget, which she said has “grown $4.6 billion dollars under this administration.”

She said she believes that under Walker, the state has been spending money in the wrong areas, shortchanging public schools and private industry programs that could help small businesses develop, expand and create jobs.

Although voters have told pollsters they're not familiar with Burke, she is in a statistical tie with Walker.

One Marquette Law poll this week showed 70 percent of voters do not know enough about Burke to know whether they'd vote for her, and another poll out of Marquette showed Burke was neck-and-neck with Walker in a hypothetical gubernatorial race, with 47 percent in the poll favoring Walker and 45 percent favoring Burke.

Delavan resident Randall Upton said he wanted to meet Burke because he views her as a “centrist” or moderate in her views. Upton said he's often identified himself as a Republican, but lately he's shifted to a political independent. He said Burke appeals to him as a candidate who isn't immediately concerned with taking a partisan slant on polarizing state issues.

“Everybody, or some people, want to make her into a carpet-bagging, left-wing liberal from Madison. I don't think that's the case. Besides, you can't expect somebody to come out and jump on a platform on day one.”

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