- Associated Press - Friday, June 6, 2014

WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. (AP) - Mary Burke, trying to fire up Democratic activists in the biggest speech of her campaign so far, told the Wisconsin party convention Friday night that Republican Gov. Scott Walker has failed by dividing instead of uniting. She promised to offer a “new direction” if elected governor.

Burke got in the race eight months ago and is running even with Walker based on the most recent poll. The race is garnering national attention as Walker tries to win re-election while eyeing a possible run for president in 2016.

Burke argued Walker doesn’t deserve another term as governor, saying he is “not working for us.”

“You know that we need a new direction,” Burke said. “You know that our economy isn’t better until it’s better for everyone. And you know Scott Walker’s approach puts those at the top and the special interests ahead of families. That approach isn’t working.”

Walker gained prominence less than two months into his term when he proposed effectively ending collective bargaining for most public workers. Passage of the law later that year led to Walker being forced into a recall election in 2012. He became the first governor in U.S. history to win a recall, surviving by a wider margin than his first win in 2010.

Burke served as Commerce secretary under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle from 2005 to 2007 and is a former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive. She was elected last year to the Madison school board, but this is her first run for statewide office.

Burke was the keynote speaker at the two-day convention that kicked off Friday at a resort in Wisconsin Dells. She was trying to build on momentum from the latest Marquette University Law School poll released in May that showed her tied with Walker among registered voters.

Both Walker and Burke say jobs and the economy are the top issues in the race, but they cite different figures to back up why they are the better choice.

Under Walker, about 101,000 private sector jobs have been added and unemployment is at its lowest level since 2008. But Walker is nowhere near his signature 2010 campaign promise to create 250,000 jobs by the end of the year, and the job growth that has occurred puts Wisconsin 37th nationwide.

Burke derided Walker’s jobs plan from four years ago, saying it was only four pages - two if the pictures of Walker were removed.

“Frankly, I’ve seen eighth grade term papers that have more work put into them,” she said.

Burke said she has a detailed plan to improve Wisconsin’s economy and she can deliver because of her business experience at Trek Bicycle Corp., a company started by her father.

“I will bring a business-like approach to job creation and strengthening the middle class,” Burke said. “That’s something we’ve been lacking.”

Walker campaign spokeswoman Alleigh Marre said, “The only direction Mary Burke would take Wisconsin families is backward. Wisconsin is better off than it was four years ago, and Gov. Walker is moving Wisconsin forward with balanced budgets, more jobs, lower taxes, and more prosperity for all.”

The convention kicked off just hours after a federal judge struck down Wisconsin’s ban on gay marriages, and clerks in Madison and Milwaukee were issuing marriage certificates as joyful Democrats gathered for their meeting. Nearly every speaker praised the ruling, which Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen promised to appeal.

On Saturday the three Democratic candidates for attorney general were scheduled to speak, as well as Democrats running against Republican congressmen.

The Republican convention was last month. The election is Nov. 4.


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