October 31, 2014

Mary Burke pushes back on Trek firing claims

Mary Burke PHOTO: WRN

Mary Burke PHOTO: WRN

Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke pushes back on claims she was fired from her family’s business. As Burke and Governor Scott Walker crisscross the state in the final days leading up to the election, both are asked about claims that Burke was fired from her family’s Trek Bicycle in the early 1990s.

In Appleton on Thursday, the Republican incumbent had little to say. “I don’t have any knowledge about that, so I’ll have to leave that to them. I really can’t comment on something I don’t know much about,” the governor said.

But at a later stop in Sheboygan Walker blamed the media for not vetting Burke properly, telling reporters that they’ve covered his bald spot more than they’ve covered Burke. Walker also said he had known of the claim that Burke was forced out for months, but was not behind the reports. Burke was asked Friday in Madison whether she believed that. “No, I don’t,” she said.

Two former Trek executives have claimed that Burke was fired as head of European operations for Trek. Burke and her brother John, the current head of Trek Bicycle, said Burke left voluntarily in a company reorganization.

Burke’s late father, Richard Burke, founded Trek in the 1970s. Burke was asked about how he would have reacted to the hard-fought campaign for governor. “I think it would have been hard to see the lies and the smears on my reputation and on my career,” she said. “But he gave me the strength to realize I can do this, and I would be a great leader for Wisconsin.”

The allegations surrounding Burke’s performance at Trek came the same week as results from the latest Marquette Law School poll show her trailing Walker among likely voters, 50 percentage points for the governor to 43 percent for Burke.

Burke calls allegation she was fired from Trek ‘ridiculous’

Mary Burke says she was never fired from her family’s business. Less than a week prior to Election Day, the Democrat running against Republican Governor Scott Walker vehemently rejected the allegation from a conservative media outlet, which claimed that she was fired from Trek Bicycle more than twenty years ago.

“That’s ridiculous, and frankly this is the sort of nonsense, six days before an election, baseless allegations that are detering frankly from the issues that are really important here,” said Burke.

During a campaign stop in Green Bay on Wednesday, Burke said that she left a position with Trek’s European operations of her own accord. “We reorganized and eliminated the position that I had, and I left that organization in charge of two other people who reported directly to the U.S.” Burke said.

John Burke, the President of Trek and Burke’s brother, issued a statement noting that the allegations reported by Wisconsin Reporter were attributed to Gary Ellerman, the Chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party. John Burke said Ellerman was fired from Trek in 2004. “His politically motivated characterizations of Mary and her tenure at Trek are inaccurate.”

Wisconsin A.G. candidates set for final debate

Wisconsin attorney general candidates Susan Happ and Brad Schimel are set to meet for their third and final debate at the State Bar Center in Madison on Wednesday. Democrat Happ is district attorney in Jefferson County, while Republican Schimel is district attorney in Waukesha County. The two are in a tight and contentious race to succeed Republican Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, who chose not to seek reelection.

In a campaign that has gotten the attention of voters mainly through negative media advertising, Schimel has characterized Happ as an activist who would have an ideological agenda, while Happ has claimed that Schimel would blindly defend all state laws even if they’re clearly unconstitutional.

The debate is scheduled to get underway at 7 p.m. Wednesday. WISC‘s Eric Franke will moderate the debate, which will stream live at Channel3000.com. The debate will also be televised on Sunday in the Madison and La Crosse markets.

Kristen Smith sentenced to 25 years

A woman convicted of kidnapping her infant nephew and leaving him outside in a plastic storage bin in frigid temperatures has been sentenced to 25 years in federal prison. U.S. District Judge James D. Peterson imposed the sentence Monday on 31-year-old Kristen Smith of Aurora, Colorado. Smith was found guilty on July 31, after a four-day trial in U.S. District Court in Madison.

Smith was accused of taking then five-day old Kayden Powell in the middle of the night last February, then leaving the infant in a storage bin behind a gas station in Iowa before she was taken into police custody. The police chief in West Branch, Iowa found Kayden more than a day later unharmed, despite the sub-zero temperatures outside.

At the trial, the evidence showed that Smith faked a pregnancy and kidnapped the infant with the intent to take him back to Colorado and claim him as her child. The jury reached their verdict after less than three hours of deliberation.

In sentencing Smith, Judge Peterson called her a liar and said, “You would have let the baby die rather than admit you had taken him.”

United States Attorney Vaudreuil said, “Kristen Smith left a baby outside in bitterly cold temperatures and for over 24 hours denied any knowledge of his whereabouts. Her callous disregard for this child’s life merits this long prison sentence.”

Grothman unfazed by lack of endorsement from Petri

Republican state Senator Glenn Grothman isn’t too concerned by the fact that Republican U.S. Representative Tom Petri won’t endorse him as he runs to succeed Petri. “I like Congressman Petri, a nice, soft-spoken individual, but right now we’re borrowing 20 percent of our budget, and I think I’m going to be a little bit more fiscally conservative than Congressman Petri,” Grothman told KFIZ.

“Why would I endorse a person who has said that if in two years people said he was ‘just like Petri’ he would be insulted?” Petri told the Fond du Lac Reporter this week. “I don’t want to smother him with love or anything like that.”

“I think what we have in that race is a situation where Grothman had challenged Petri earlier on to a primary, and that doesn’t usually sit well, challenging a sitting member of Congress in your own party,” said Lawrence University political science professor Arnold Shober. “Some things were said, and now Petri doesn’t feel the need to endorse him.”

Grothman may not have the endorsement of Petri, but that hasn’t seemed to temper his conservative talking points. “Right now we have a welfare system out of control . . . and I’m going to be much more aggressive than Congressman Petri in reigning in that welfare system,” he said.

Petri has even said Grothman’s Democratic opponent, Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris, has done a good job, although Grothman says Petri has also made a donation to Grothman’s campaign.

“It’s not good for Grothman to not be able to claim that Petri has endorsed him,” Shober told WHBY. “That doesn’t mean it’s a death knell by any stretch. The district leans Republican. But Harris will be able to say ‘look, Grothman is not the kind of Republican that Petri was. Are you sure you really want that?'”