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Politics & Government

After Relative Silence, More Political Ads Launch in Race for Governor


This has been a relatively quiet political year in Wisconsin, at least, so far. It’s a sharp contrast from two springs ago, when the state was in the throes of a gubernatorial recall. Political ads ran wall to wall on TV.

One conservative group, Americans for Prosperity, did launch an ad campaign Tuesday. It touts Gov. Scott Walker’s policies and comes just days after a poll shows him tied with Democrat Mary Burke.

There was a flurry of political ads early this year. The Republican Governors Association bought time on behalf of Gov. Scott Walker in February.

The ad ran just before a court released thousands of emails belonging to a former aide, convicted of campaigning on government time. The ad slammed the governor’s likely Democratic opponent, Mary Burke. 

Her campaign fired back with one criticizing the governor.  By April, the flurry had ended.

“I suspect maybe the outside money wanted to see if they could really wound her before her campaign got off the ground.” Dennis Riley is a political scientist at UW-Stevens Point. “It appeared not to move the needle. She’s actually moved up a little bit, so they’re probably going to back off and pick it up later on," Riley says.

The new special interest ad that just began running statewide, touts the governor’s policies and does not mention an opponent. Riley says generally, there’s a lull in political advertising heading into summer. It’s hard to get people’s attention, according to UW-Green Bay Political Science Professor Michael Kraft.

“You’re not spending your money wisely to spend it now versus in October, for example, because whatever impact you might have could be lost before we get to the fall,” Kraft says.

Kraft predicts campaign ads will start popping up regularly, after Labor Day. So, what might we see this summer? Charles Franklin predicts residents will see the candidates making public appearances. Franklin is public policy professor at Marquette and directs the Law School poll.

“Mary Burke has been traveling the state meeting with groups from small to fairly large. Gov. Walker has maintained a very active travel schedule, both in his official capacity and for political meetings, and the staff organizations behind these campaigns have been working very hard for months and months, to build the voter contact lists, to figure out who your supporters are and who needs more motivation to get to the polls,” Franklin says.

But, Franklin is not convinced the airwaves will be void of political ads over the next few months. He could see candidates for governor running mid-summer spots, just to keep their name, before voters.

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