MADISON (AP) - The Republican Governors Association plans to launch a six-figure ad buy next week attacking Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke on the same day that thousands of emails from a convicted felon who worked for Gov. Scott Walker are released.
The ad is the first television salvo in the re-election race for Walker, a national conservative star who is eyeing a 2016 presidential run. The RGA was a strong backer of Walker both in the 2010 campaign and his 2012 recall, spending a combined $14.4 million in those races, based on estimates by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
The new ad, to air statewide on cable and broadcast networks starting Wednesday, will "remind and inform voters that Mary Burke was a senior official in the failed Jim Doyle administration," RGA spokesman Jon Thompson said Thursday.
Burke worked as Doyle's Department of Commerce secretary from 2005 to 2007. She is also a former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive and is a member of the Madison school board. The race against Walker is her first statewide campaign and her staff includes several aides and advisers who worked for Doyle.
Walker backers have made her connections with Doyle, who decided against seeking a third term in 2010 in the midst of a national recession, a key part of their attacks against Burke. The RGA ad, which the group said it will not release until Wednesday, will again hit on that theme.
"Mary Burke's campaign for governor has been based on her experience as a senior member of a job-killing, outsourcing, budget-busting, big government administration that represents the failed policies of the past," said RGA spokeswoman Gail Gitcho. "Voters had enough of the Doyle/Burke agenda, and now Wisconsin is on the right path under Governor Scott Walker."
While the Walker camp attacks Burke's ties with Doyle, she is focusing much of her criticism of Walker on his record of job creation. Walker promised in 2010 to create 250,000 private sector jobs by the end of this year, but the state is on track to only get about halfway there. Wisconsin is also ranked 37th nationally in private sector job creation for the 12-month period that ended in June.
Burke spokesman Joe Zepecki, in response to the ad buy, said it was "no surprise" given Walker's record on job creation that "he and his deep pocketed special interest allies will say or do anything to distract from the struggles of Wisconsin's middle class under Scott Walker."
The RGA ad is hitting the airwaves the same day that 27,000 emails and hundreds of pages of other documents that were collected during the criminal investigation into former Walker aide Kelly Rindfleisch are released. She worked in Walker's Milwaukee County executive office and in 2012 was convicted of a felony for doing campaign work on government time.
When asked if the ad's release was timed to deflect from news about the emails, RGA spokesman Thompson said the timing and focus was about "making sure voters are aware that Mary Burke's failed policies would take Wisconsin backwards."
A Marquette University law school poll released last month showed Walker leading Burke 47 percent to 41 percent, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. In the same poll, only 14 percent of respondents said they thought the state would add 250,000 private sector jobs as Walker promised.