MADISON (AP) – The 12-week march toward Election Day began Wednesday with Republican Gov. Scott Walker releasing a television ad focusing on his job-creation record, while Democratic challenger Mary Burke campaigned in northern Wisconsin after easily dispatching her primary opponent.
Walker said voters on Nov. 4 will have a clear choice between him and Burke, a former Trek Bicycles executive and state Commerce Department secretary under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle.
“I think people need to remember, looking ahead, if you want things to be even better four years from now there’s a clear choice between going forward with me and Rebecca Kleefisch … or if you want to go back to the days we saw under Jim Doyle,” Walker said in an interview Wednesday on WTMJ-AM.
Walker was campaigning Wednesday in Stevens Point while Burke was farther north in Minocqua. Burke easily defeated her token opponent Brett Hulsey in Tuesday’s primary. State Sen. John Lehman, of Racine, won the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor and will be Burke’s running mate.
Burke said her approach to the final three months of the campaign is unchanged.
“I’ve had the same game plan since day one,” Burke told The Associated Press. “That’s getting out and making sure the people of Wisconsin get to know me, the kind of governor I will be.”
Walker won a recall in 2012 and is considering running for president in 2016. Burke, a member of the Madison school board, is mounting her first statewide run for office.
Walker touted his record of increasing spending for worker training by more than $100 million in his latest television ad, which featured five people saying they recently got jobs.
“This ad features some of the faces and the voices of the people who have gotten jobs since I’ve been elected governor,” Walker said in the WTMJ radio interview. “There are many more like them, and I think people generally feel good about the direction the state has gone in the past four years.”
Walker’s campaign refused to identify them, saying it “respects the wishes of the private citizens who prefer not to release their personal information.”
Watch the ad:
Burke’s campaign spokesman Joe Zepecki questioned the legitimacy of their stories.
“If, in fact, these folks found employment over the last four years, that’s great,” Zepecki said. “Unfortunately, nowhere near enough Wisconsinites have similar stories to tell because we’re lagging the rest of the Midwest and most of the nation in private sector job creation under Walker.”
Under Walker, more than 100,000 private sector jobs have been added while the unemployment rate has dropped from 7.1 percent the month before he took office to 5.7 percent currently. However, Walker promised to add 250,000 private sector jobs by the end of this year and the state’s current job growth puts it 37th nationwide.
Burke backers in Tuesday’s primary had a clear message for her as she tries to beat Walker: focus on his record and explain why she’s a better choice.
“She has to articulate the issues,” said Michael Schaitel, 65, a semi-retired businessman from Madison. Burke needs to highlight Walker’s record effectively ending collective bargaining for public workers and his loosening of environmental laws to ease the way for a new coal mine in northern Wisconsin, Schaitel said.
Burke can win if she continues to differentiate herself from Walker and emphasize that Wisconsin is lagging other states in economic development and job creation, said George Esser, 65, a retired state worker from Madison.
“Objectively, Wisconsin has not done as well as other states,” Esser said.
Republican Connie Laska, 82, a retired teacher from Madison, supports Walker, but he’s prepared for a tight election. The last two Marquette University Law School polls, in May and July, showed the race to be a dead heat among registered voters.
“It’ll be close,” Laska said.