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Mary Burke Hopes to Become the Next Governor of Wisconsin

Governor Walker now has a declared opponent in seeking another term. Mary Burke threw her hat into the ring Monday. She’s a former executive at Trek Bicycle and headed the Wisconsin Department of Commerce for former Gov. Jim Doyle. Burke announced her candidacy via a web video.

Right now, Mary Burke is the only Democrat to declare her intention to run for governor. There are advantages to jumping in this early, according to Kenneth Mayer. He’s a political science professor at UW-Madison.

“You want to, particularly as a challenger, to try and clear the field and discourage potential challengers for the nomination to come forward. Now she gets to start raising money, put together an organization and begin to actually become a candidate and start generating support,” Mayer says.  

Yet Mayer says there are also drawbacks to announcing ones candidacy more than a year in advance.

“You provide lots of time for the opposition to begin to put their strategy together and to collect information and do opposition research,” Mayer says.

Within hours of Burke’s announcement, the Republican Party of Wisconsin activated a website with Burke’s name, labeling her out of touch. The party also sent out press releases tying her stint leading the Department of Commerce to what it calls the failed Doyle Administration, in terms of jobs and deficits. GOP leaders did not return our requests for comment, but Mayer says the stakes in next year’s race are high.

“If Walker doesn’t win, it effectively ends his national political aspirations. In order for them to continue to be taken seriously, he has to win and do well. It’s also important for Democrats because of the recall."

Gov. Walker survived the 2012 recall.

While Burke has jumped out front to challenge him, other Democrats may enter the race. State Sen. Chris Larson says ultimately, party members will pick their candidate.

“I think the primary process will play itself out, and if there’s other people thinking about running. But I think the strength of her candidacy is gonna be pretty formidable if there’s other Democrats who want to get in it,” Larson says.

Mary Burke does have a few things going for her, according to UW-Madison Political Scientists Kenneth Mayer.

“She is not a professional politician of long standing. She has business experience and some administrative experience,” Mayer says.

If a primary is needed, it’ll happen next August. The General Election will follow in November.

LaToya was a reporter with WUWM from 2006 to 2021.
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