- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 15, 2014

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke said Wednesday that the dispute over the authenticity of her jobs plan slowed the momentum of her campaign against Republican Gov. Scott Walker, but a new poll shows the race remains a dead heat.

From May through September, polls by the Marquette University Law School showed the race to be tied. But the first poll after the plagiarism accusations broke, released two weeks ago, showed Walker ahead of Burke by 5 points. That had a 4.1 percentage point margin of error.

The latest Marquette poll released Wednesday showed the race back at a dead heat with both Walker and Burke at 47 percent among likely voters. Only 4 percent were undecided. The margin of error was 3.5 percentage points.

“Today’s poll confirms that this race is too close to call,” Burke spokesman Joe Zepecki said in a statement.

The poll showed a shift in support among key independent voters. Two weeks ago, Walker led among such voters 53 percent to 40 percent, but in Wednesday’s poll, 45 percent backed Burke and 44 percent backed Walker.

Burke met with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s editorial board shortly before the poll was released. She said the accusations that her campaign plagiarized sections of other Democratic gubernatorial candidates’ jobs plans hurt her chances on Nov. 4, but she chalked it up to the rough and tumble of a tight race.

“Yeah, probably, sure, it had an impact,” Burke said. “But there’s three weeks to go on this. This is how politics go. This is how campaigns go.”

Burke has focused her campaign on the jobs plan she released in March and how it would be a better approach than that of Walker, a possible 2016 presidential candidate. But the mid-September revelation that parts of her plan were lifted word-for-word from others’ plans appears to have had an impact.

Burke defended her plan while continuing to place blame for the copied sections on a consultant she cut ties with.

“It’s definitely my plan,” Burke told the editorial board. “There’s no other plan you can find that has that type of combination of strategies that I think will work in Wisconsin.”

The issue of jobs has been central in the governor’s race because of Walker’s 2010 pledge to create 250,000 private-sector jobs by the end of this year. It’s a promise he won’t come close to fulfilling, as the state had added about 103,000 jobs through August.

Burke also used the hour-long interview to highlight major differences she has with Walker with the Nov. 4 election less than three weeks away. Burke said as governor she would stop expansion of the statewide private-school voucher program, and repeal it if possible, increase funding for K-12 and higher education, and repeal a law requiring women to wait 24 hours and have ultrasounds before getting an abortion.

She also attempted to distance herself from Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, whom she worked under as Commerce Department secretary for nearly three years. Walker has tried to paint Burke as a third Doyle term.

But Burke said she opposed a variety of Doyle initiatives, including tax increases targeting the wealthy, raids of the state’s transportation fund to pay for schools, and the raising of tuitions in the University of Wisconsin System.

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Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP

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