October 23, 2014

Mary Burke votes early in Madison

PHOTO; WRN

PHOTO; WRN

Mary Burke cast her vote Tuesday in Wisconsin’s closely contested governor’s race. The Democrat cast her early absentee ballot at the Madison clerk’s office – and there were plenty of media on hand as she did. Burke said she wants to make voters aware of the option. “It is to increase awareness of early voting, that there is that opportunity,” she said. The early voting got underway Monday at clerks offices across the state.

In a race that’s all about turnout, Burke said she’s not overly focused on specific numbers of early votes versus those cast on Election Day November 4th. “I look at the turnout overall by November 4th, and certainly need to have good turnout.” she said.

The race is generating support from big names: First Lady Michelle Obama has campaigned twice for Burke, former President Bill Clinton will be in Milwaukee on Friday, and a visit from President Obama is possible in the week prior to the election. “People wouldn’t be here unless they thought I had great chance of winning,” Burke said.

Burke expects turnout to be greater than in the 2010 race for governor, but probably not as large as in the 2012 recall. Republican Governor Scott Walker – who plans to vote on Election Day – has had only one campaign visit from a big name supporter so far – New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

Walker, Burke make closing arguments in final debate

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke and GOP Governor Scott Walker (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke and GOP Governor Scott Walker (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

The two candidates for governor field questions about jobs numbers, the state budget, education costs, taxes, the Kenosha casino, the economy, and whether to criminalize first offense drunk driving.

The city of Milwaukee gets a lot of attention, with questions about central city violence, unemployment among African Americans, and an arena for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Governor Scott Walker’s predecessor sees even more attention from the current chief executive. “In the last three years,” Walker says while defending his jobs numbers, “we created twice as many jobs as were created during the three years that my opponent was in charge of the Department of Commerce under Governor Doyle.”

In an effort to compare his Democratic challenger Mary Burke to former Governor Jim Doyle, Walker references Burke’s former boss multiple times. “With the number of times that Governor Walker has mentioned Jim Doyle,” Burke quips, “it’s clear that he’d be running against him than me.”

Burke and Walker differ on drunk driving

Burke says first time offense for driving drunk should be a misdemeanor, saying there needs to be more consequences for the thousands of alcohol-related crashes on Wisconsin roadways. In addition to avoidable deaths, “This is costing our society a lot of money along with the type of personal injury that it causes.”

Republican Governor Scott Walker says it’s a “tragic” issue, but criminalizing first time offenders isn’t the answer. He says the focus needs to be on those who are on the road multiple times driving drunk. “That’s something we have to crack down on,” he says, “Those first time offenders … criminalizing that isn’t the answer. It’s going after repeat offenders.”

Walker says this is an issue that Republicans and Democrats at the Capitol can work on together.

AUDIOOne non-scripted moment came when the clock malfunctioned. :44

Disagreement on the Kenosha casino debate

The high-stakes issue of expanding gaming in Wisconsin gets a lot of attention among the two gubernatorial candidates. Burke says an impartial study is needed before making a decision on a proposal for an off-reservation casino in Kenosha, saying it’s important to look at the impact on Kenosha, Milwaukee, and the state over all.

“I have said that if it shows that it creates a significant number of new jobs and it adds to Wisconsin’s employment and tax base, that I would approve that casino.”

Burke says she will make a decision and won’t “kick the can down the road” like her opponent.

Meanwhile, Walker says he’s done a lot to increase jobs in the area, but says the biggest issue holding up the Kenosha casino project is the tribal compacts his predecessor Governor Jim Doyle negotiated. Walker says he’ll take the time to get it right, so the state doesn’t lose money on the deal. “We’re gonna take the full amount of time that we need to … to make sure we can get to a point where we can create those jobs. We can have a win, win, win. Create the jobs there, protect the jobs in other parts of the state, and make sure we do that without creating a $100,000 hole in the state budget.”

AUDIO: Burke closing argument 2:47

AUDIO: Walker closing argument 3:06

The small percentage of independent voters have just two weeks to make up their minds before Election Day. Walker and Burke continue to say a win in this hotly-contested race will depend largely on voter turn-out. Both candidates have been running head-to-head in polls, with the most recent Marquette University Law School Poll showing them at 47 percent each among likely voters.

The two candidates met in Milwaukee for an event that was sponsored by the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association and was broadcasts statewide on television and radio. Burke and Walker were questioned by a panel of broadcast journalists. Burke and Walker met the week before for their first debate in Eau Claire.

Governor Walker outlines Ebola prevention plan

WRN file photo

WRN file photo

Governor Scott Walker is directing state leaders to implement emergency preparedness measures, aimed at protecting the public in the event the Ebola virus spreads to Wisconsin. The virus has only been reported in Texas so far, and the state says there have been no confirmed cases in Wisconsin.

Walker outlined a planned response Friday that includes having the State Health Officer work with the Wisconsin National Guard to train teams on the proper protocols and procedures for treating individuals infected with Ebola. The state will also partner with the Wisconsin Hospital Association and hospitals around Wisconsin to develop an advisory team that can help provide technical and medical expertise to the Department of Health Services.

Finally, Walker joined a growing list of state and federal officials who are calling on the U.S. government to ban commercial travel for West African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak. The ban would still allow for charter, military, and other flights that are deemed “medically necessary” to help fight the spread of Ebola.

In a statement, Walker said “We must balance our continued efforts to support medical systems and contain and eradicate the virus in West Africa with taking necessary steps to protect American citizens from the virus spreading further within our country.”

In addition to the steps outlined Friday, Walker said the state has a surveillance policy in place to monitor people who have traveled in Ebola-stricken countries.

Race for Wisconsin governor remains a dead heat

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke and GOP Governor Scott Walker (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke and GOP Governor Scott Walker (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

With less than three weeks to go before the election, the race for governor in Wisconsin remains a statistical dead heat between incumbent Republican Governor Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke.

The latest Marquette University Law School Poll released shows Walker and Burke tied among likely voters at 47-47. Walker led Burke 48-45 among registered voters, within the poll’s margin of error.

The poll also shows a split in the race for attorney general, with Republican Brad Schimel and Democrat Susan Happ splitting the vote at 42-42, with about 16 percent of voters still undecided on who they will vote for in the race.

The poll interviewed 1,004 registered voters, with 803 of those saying they are likely to vote on November 4. It was conducted October 9-12 and has a margin of error among registered voters of +/- 3.2 percent and +/- 3.5 percent among likely voters.

Governor Walker considers revamping the gas tax

(PHOTO: Jackie Johnson, file)

(PHOTO: Jackie Johnson, file)

Governor Scott Walker floats the idea of replacing the traditional gas tax with a sales tax on gasoline and alternative fuels for vehicles, saying it could help stabilize the state transportation fund as it faces a $680 million shortfall in the next biennial budget.

Walker gave scant details on his plan during an editorial meeting with the Wisconsin State Journal on Monday, but elaborates a bit on Tuesday when meeting with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial board and reporters.

Walker points out fuel-efficient vehicles don’t generate enough revenue from the gas tax. “The gas tax is based on gallons of gas purchased,” he says. “As the gallons of gas go down, the gas tax collections go down, even though those vehicles put the same wear and tear – if not more – on the roads and infrastructure.”

Craig Thompson heads the Wisconsin Transportation Development Association. He says more information is needed on the proposal. “Well, without knowing all the details, it’s a little hard to say, but there are other states in the country who have looked at these sorts of things.”

Walker suggests his idea would be a more stable source of revenue, rather than relying on fuel usage. A bipartisan state transportation commission has recommended, among other things, an increase in the state gas tax and a higher driver’s license registration fee to help generate revenue to maintain the state’s roadways. Those ideas were rejected by Republicans.

Thompson says he needs more details before he can fully comprehend or comment on the governor’s proposal. “I think you have to give the governor credit for putting some ideas on the table. Many of the media have asked both candidates to do that and he’s started that conversation.”

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke doesn’t like the idea, which would make fuel taxes for motorists go up or down based on the fluctuation of prices at the pump, rather than hinging on the actual amount of gas pumped into the tank. “Pegging it and having it be a sales tax rather than on a gallon of gas actually subjects it to wide fluctuations because of the changes in prices of gas. So, I think it probably doesn’t work very well. I would be looking to address the real issue.”

Walker’s idea comes just three weeks before he faces Democrat Mary Burke in the general election November 4th.