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.

Early voting surpasses 2012 recall election numbers

WRN file photo

WRN file photo

More than 240,300 absentee ballots have been cast so far, according to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.

Today is the last day of early voting for the November 4th general election. The state elections agency says, of the 240,308 ballots cast through Friday morning, 173,361 of them were cast in clerks’ offices. Nearly 67,000 were cast by mail or other methods of absentee voting. There were 22,462 absentee ballots issued that had not yet been returned.

Wisconsin’s chief election official Kevin Kennedy says, “We have surpassed early voting numbers for the 2012 recall election, and will likely surpass all absentee voting for the recall.” In June 2012, there were 153,854 in-person (early) absentee votes and 265,427 total absentee votes. Kennedy cautioned that the absentee numbers released are partial and preliminary.

Voters who hope to cast their vote before Tuesday should check with their local clerk for hours. In-person absentee voting must end by 7 p.m., but clerks have the option to close earlier.

The GAB projects about a 57 percent voter turnout for the 2014 general election — or 2.5 million eligible Wisconsin residents. That would be a record for a November gubernatorial election.

Historically, the highest voter turnout in a November gubernatorial election in the last 50 years was 52.4 percent in 1962. Turnout in the June 2012 recall was 2,516,371 voters, or 57.8 percent.

Poll shows support for criminalizing 1st offense drunk driving

Alcohol (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

Alcohol (PHOTO: Jackie Johnson)

The last Marquette Law School poll of this election cycle is released this week and poll director Charles Franklin says supporters of Republican Governor Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke hold sharply differing views on most issues, with the greatest difference on Act 10 and collective bargaining.

Two issues stand out for their small differences among likely voters. One is approval of a casino in Kenosha. The other is how to penalize first-offense drunk drivers. Franklin says, “The public is actually more amenable to criminalizing first offense OWI.” He says, “56 percent would support that, 39 oppose.”

Burke and Walker differ on drunk driving

Burke believes 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.

Walker says it’s a “tragic” issue, but criminalizing first-time offenders isn’t the answer. He says the focus needs to be on repeat offenders. He says  this is an issue Republicans and Democrats at the Capitol can work on together.

Many differing views come on the issues of voter photo ID, minimum wage, federal funds for Medicaid, and increased funding for education. Another area of agreement has to do with turnout. “Everything depends on who shows up,” Franklin says. “You know, if more people show up, this looks like a very close election.”

Walker and Burke are making every effort to convince voters to cast their ballot on Election Day — or sooner.

The state Government Accountability Board projects a 57 percent turnout — that’s about 2.5 million residents.

The latest Marquette Law School poll released on Wednesday finds Governor Walker leading Mary Burke 50 percent to 43 percent among likely voters. The poll interviewed 1,409 registered voters, including 1,164 likely voters, by landline and cell phone Oct. 23-26.

Schimel, Happ unfamiliar to voters in close AG race

Charles Franklin

Charles Franklin

Republican Brad Schimel has a slight advantage over Democrat Susan Happ in the race for attorney general among likely voters, according to the latest Marquette University Law School poll. Schimel has a 4 point lead, with support from 43 percent. Happ receives 39 percent, with 14 percent saying they are undecided.

Poll Director Charles Franklin says the race remains tied among registered voters, 40 to 40, with 16 percent undecided.

With just a few days before the election, voters still are not familiar with the candidates hoping to replace the outgoing J.B. Van Hollen, who opted against seeking a third term in office.

“When you’re presented with these names — Susan Happ, Brad Schimel — do you know who they are right away?” Franklin explains the survey question. “That’s not a problem much with the governors race, it’s very much a problem with the attorney general’s race.”

More than 70 percent of registered voters say they haven’t heard enough or don’t have an opinion of them. Brad Schimel is the Waukesha County district attorney, Susan Happ is the Jefferson County district attorney.

The poll shows 37 percent of registered voters say the attorney general should appeal when a court strikes down a state statute or constitutional provision while 46 percent say the attorney general should use his or her judgment as to whether an appeal is likely to be successful.

This poll interviewed 1,004 registered Wisconsin voters, by both landline and cell phone, Oct. 9-12, 2014. The margin of error is +/- 3.2 percentage points for the full sample. The sample included 803 likely voters. The margin of error for likely voters is +/- 3.5 percentage points.

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.”