I’ve been asked by more than one person why I have reservations about Mary Burke’s candidacy for governor in the 2014 election. While some may have reservations about Burke because they feel she’s been forced upon Democratic voters by the Democratic Party establishment, my concerns hit much closer to home.

Four generations of my family have been proud union members (including yours truly), and many of those proud union members were public employees (firefighters, police officers, etc.). As a union member, I’m concerned that if elected governor Mary Burke won’t be much better for labor unions (and public employees more specifically) than Gov. Scott Walker, and my cause for concern is based on what I’ve seen of how Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele has dealt with Milwaukee County employees, many of whom are members of labor unions. While I’ve generally been a support of County Executive Abele, his record on dealing with County employees leaves a lot to be desired in my opinion, and I worry that Mary Burke is cut from the same cloth when it comes to us union folks.

Unless I’m missing something Mary Burke hasn’t had to punch a time clock and work a 40 hour a week job just to make ends meet, and I’m betting she has never had to live paycheck to paycheck. While she’s certainly been very generous with her time and money, Burke doesn’t strike me as someone who truly understands what working class folks go through just to survive, much less get ahead, and given her choice of campaign staff, I don’t think they understand either. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t begrudge Mary Burke for her financial success – I just don’t think that she really understands what working class folks go through, and as a result I don’t think she’ll prioritize labor issues if she’s elected.

Maybe I’m completely wrong; maybe Mary Burke will turn out to be a champion for the labor movement and working class folks if elected. I surely hope I’m wrong, but only time will tell.

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38 Responses to Why I have reservations about Mary Burke

  1. John Casper says:


    If the GOP wanted to union bust, they could have produced a growing economy that drove better jobs with great benefits and higher salaries. Instead, they’ve created massive income inequality and the only “family supporting” jobs left are union.

    • Who are Mary Burke’s campaign staff, and did they orchestrate this press conference?


      A commenter recently wondered at who is behind Mary Burke. If this video is any indication it appears no one is behind her. Is it too ” old school ” to suggest that some supporters ought to be in view of the camera?

      • EmmaR says:

        Steve, just ask Jeff Simpson why she’s standing alone. He makes good use of the supporters in the frames of Republicans on his blog. And yep, old school seems appropriate.

        • Emma,

          This is probably the first comment of yours I don’t understand. Why aren’t there any supporters at the press conference, at least in view?

          • EmmaR says:

            Jeff wrote a great post titled “Luke Hilgemann Says Bring It” last week. Watch what he draws from the photographs. He uses photos to great effect in his posts – I’m particularly thinking about Sykes reading from his book to an empty room in Madison and even Walker in a mullet from earlier this week. Burke’s campaign probably knows the defensive reasons not to open this campaign showing supporters but also I think they’re building the Burke story and trying to make her universal and that’s their primary reason. If Vinehout runs, she’ll do the opposite because she’ll need to show regular WI families are with her to get funding and media attention. More than ever, I am convinced they are yin and yang and should run together as Gov/Lt Gov. How on earth does Walker fight back?

        • Emma,

          Help an old man out here. Are you saying that the absence of supporters at the press conference was by design? The absence of info on her website is by design? It’s just a new campaign model that an old white man like me can’t understand?

          • EmmaR says:

            By design, yes. They might have rushed all this a little too to coincide with the shutdown, potential Doe release and well, I keep waiting to for the media to ask questions about these bonds for sale right now to finance Walker’s deficit-spending. But overall, it looks like the campaign’s trying to control how much we know and when and tightly manage the Burke story they build. What might or might not be by design is the brilliant aspect of getting Walker’s campaign to go negative immediately and utterly panic him into more spending/tax cuts and expensive ad buys. They don’t have a well-defined target so they’re flailing and it shows.

            • And you thought my post and comments were silly?

            • nonquixote says:

              What might or might not be by design is the brilliant aspect of getting Walker’s campaign to go negative immediately and utterly panic him into more spending/tax cuts and expensive ad buys.

              And you were somehow expecting the W camp to do something other than to immediately go negative at every single opportunity? I just don’t generally equate modus operandi with panic.

              Interesting to read your opinions though.

              • EmmaR says:

                You raise a really good point about Walker’s team. But yeah, after winning two elections I thought his team would be more sophisticated and build him out as the seasoned statesman or presidential if you will. But they’re provincial and ugly as always. D’you suppose this signals a let up in Walker’s presidential hopes?

                • John Casper says:

                  Emma, excellent question about a possible signal w/r/t Walker’s run for President. Wish I had an opinion.


                  $100,000,000 seems to be a favorite number of Gov. Walker’s. From last week, “Scott Walker plans to give schools $100 million to cut property taxes”


                  Below is from April 2012, just before the recall vote.

                  “Walker unveils $100 million economic plan for Milwaukee’s poorest areas


                  Is this something Ms. Burke’s opposition research team should be pouncing on? My guess is the “$100 million for “Milwaukee’s poorest areas,” never made it. If that’s the case, she’s a candidate for Governor. She can mention that Gov. Walker’s photo ops are “all hat and no cattle.”

                  I’d like to see her make a statement that she’s not 100% uncomfortable with the “mandate.” That’s the part of Obamacare that the GOP (and a lot of other folks hate). It forces people to buy lousy coverage from Blue Cross/Well Point, United,…. The net of something like that might be that Blue Cross/Well Point, United…. call her campaign the next day and ask, “what’s it going to cost in campaign contributions for her to “shut-up” about the mandate?

                  Shakedowns are a dirty-side of local, state, and national politics. Do you want a tax break? Do you want your competitor to get a bigger tax break? “Show me the money.” A lot of Wisconsin businesses are probably very tired of hearing from Gov. Walker’s WEDC, aka his tax payer supported shake-down artists. Whether there’s “space” for Ms. Burke’s campaign to exploit that is an interesting question. If she could get small business owners to go on the record about Walker’s fund raising tactics, it’s a national story.

                  • EmmaR says:

                    Yep. These are good aggressive tactics without being smears – simply presenting the circumstances. But it sure doesn’t look to me like this the type of thing Burke or her campaign will do as I suspect they’re trying to position her above the fray. This seems much more up Vinehout’s alley of following the money trail, doing math, writing up the results. Then the inevitable charges of partisanship mean nothing – of course she’s partisan, she’s in the Senate. Gosh, I’d like to see these two work together instead of run for the same position.

      • Zachary says:

        Steve, Burke’s campaign is being run by former DPW Executive Director Maggie Brickerman, and her spokesperson is Joe Zepecki (I think he last worked for OFA in WI). Not sure who else she’s got working for her.

  2. jimspice says:

    I have those same reservations. With only a school board stint on her record, there’s no comprehensive voting record to judge. That said, the best bet for WI-(D)s at this point is a moderate, which from what I can tell, Burke is. That’s our best chance of capturing the middle-of-the-road voters from the big hump at the center of the normal curve. Call it the inaugural salvo in the rebuilding battle.

  3. Cat Lady Darcy says:

    I’m sure Jeff Stone would be much better than Abele. (sic)

    As Obama said, “Don’t compare me to the Almighty. Compare me to the Alternative.”

    Mary Burke is intelligent, experienced and philanthropic; has been vetted, briefed in what kind of resources it will take to win an expensive election and focus-group tested amongst interested constituencies. And emerged as a strong candidate.

    Spending even a minute of your time and energy tearing her down – until a more suitable ALTERNATIVE surfaces – is disingenuous.

  4. Cat Kin says:

    As a comparison we might consider John F. Kennedy and the civil rights movement. He at first had no idea what it meant and considered it a distraction. Of course, when he saw the need and correctness of the movement he got behind it. Still, he and brother Robert never got on the good side of Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters. And for that we should be thankful. IMHO, it’s the union bosses whose only tactic is confrontation and coercion instead of artful PR and member benefits that’s been the bane of Unions.

    • John Casper says:

      Cat, physicians, attorneys, tenured professors, ….any kind of credentialing is a “collective.” The only way for labor to put a floor underneath their wages is to restrict supply.

      It’s not by accident that there’s a massive shortage of physicians. A liaison committee of the AMA http://www.lcme.org tells Medical schools how many “seats” they can graduate.

      “On the Waterfront,” is a great look at a corrupt union.

      Wall Street’s a great look at white collar corruption.

      It’s far from a perfect system. If you know of a better way to manage the inherent tensions between capital and labor, there’s a Nobel Laureate with your name on it.

  5. Aaron Camp says:

    I’m a lifelong Illinoisan, but I’ve written about Wisconsin politics since not long after Scott Walker “dropped the bomb” on Wisconsinites, and, one thing that I’ve noticed is that so-called “swing voters” in Wisconsin, with a few exceptions such as Herb Kohl, appear to prefer hard-line ideologues (or candidates perceived as such) over centrist-minded candidates for public office.

    Look at the two U.S. Senators from Wisconsin: Tammy Baldwin is one of the most liberal members of the Senate, and Ron Johnson is one of the most conservative members of the Senate. To me, it seems as if swing voters in Wisconsin are Obama-Walker voters, Obama-Johnson voters, Baldwin-Walker voters, and/or Baldwin-Johnson voters, and, for the life of me, I can’t explain why someone would vote for ultra-conservative candidates like Walker and Johnson and then turn around and vote for candidates who either are liberal (Baldwin is generally regarded as a progressive) or perceived as such (Obama’s not a progressive, but he ran a populist campaign in 2012).

    Are “swing voters” in Wisconsin the far-left types who need to be persuaded to go to the polls, or are the “swing voters” in Wisconsin people who, for some bizarre reason, prefer hard-line ideologues over centrist-minded types?

    • EmmaR says:

      I hope someone else takes a good swing at answering your question head-on. My take focuses on the superficiality of voting decisions. Feingold didn’t seem to know what hit him in the campaign but to send an honorable and honored Senator home for a guy with nothing but one-liners and hypocrisy is a puzzle. Thompson seemed a shoe-in until he swerved to the right in his primary and then voters apparently compared someone of youth and vitality with someone old, tired, corpulent and out of ideas. Perhaps a superficial basis, but it went our way. And that might be the answer – Wisconsin is just getting dumber and voting on appearance, sound bites and TV commercials. Sad but maybe true. It explains boy scout-looking Walker getting elected when 20 minutes study of his experience would have told any voter just who he was and how else to explain Paul Ryan rising out of Janesville with a Randian agenda. And then there’s Sean Duffy. Wow. Burke’s campaign seems to play to this dynamic and Vinehout as a Senator is more cerebral and wonky. Should be interesting.

    • jimspice says:

      Having diametrically opposed senators is EXACTLY the outcome one might expect in a very competitive state. More ideological partisans compose primary voter turnout, thus producing more ideological candidates from both parties. And even a small shift in the sentiments of general election voters at large can mean the difference of one outcome vs. the other. The thing is, WI (R)s have shifted so far right, we SHOULD be seeing those centrist voters flocking to our side. We haven’t. I THINK it’s because voters are formulating their votes based on their opinions of the most liberal members of the (D) party — the singers, the marchers, the beer spillers, etc. I don’t for a second think those people should stop (well maybe the beer spillers), but presenting a truly moderate (D) would go a long way to appease those we can peel off from the center.

  6. EmmaR says:

    Good post. I never comment on Chris Liebenthal’s Abele posts because I’m no longer in Milwaukee nor would I have voted for him to begin with. But if even half of what he writes has merit, MKE County is getting screwed. The only thing is that it’s rather a toss up on who’s worse – Abele or the County Board. I think a part-time board would bring in people with fresh ideas and whose livelihood isn’t dependent on the tax payers. One key difference between Burke and Abele. Burke went to work for Trek and Abele never worked for Boston Scientific to the best of my knowledge. That’s a critical difference as one tied her success to her family’s company and worked to make it better and one cashed out. I think you raise a good point about the blue collar experience. My feeling is that success is a gift. When we’re blessed we must share it and all of us must try to leave this world a better place than we found it. This means for many of us that there’s no place for us in the modern GOP and their peculiar brand of post -Christ Christianity. It would be a shame for blue collar Democrats to draw a line in the sand and push out successful white collar Democrats. There’s such a thing as empathy and many people of means are generous, progressive, and humble. Burke strikes me as such. I think you’re worried she’ll be a neo-liberal. I want to know that as well. But what won’t necessarily signal it is if she doesn’t talk much about unions overtly and she doesn’t apologize for her charter school support (I too don’t think it’s a bad idea to at least try an alternative for black, male children in that particular instance – I realize most of the charter school movement is a money grab but no one anywhere has a solution for what happens to young black males) and she runs a campaign that is different in its rollout. Again, we’ll see what she brings over time. Back to white collar/blue collar. The danger in going there is that the criticism works both ways. Sinking into divisiveness is exactly what Republicans want. After all, divide and conquer is what they do best.

  7. nonquixote says:

    John Nichols @ Sly this afternoon was not impressed with Burke’s initial campaign roll out. Walker campaign was easily raising questions about what is supposed to be Mary’s strong suit, business dev and job creation. Reiterated what he spoke about previously that she should have been out and about, speaking and shaking hands throughout the state the whole summer just past.

  8. nonquixote says:

    Ms Brickerman whom I have met twice, is still listed as exec dir on the DPW site, either behind on their web page updating or no rules about holding two jobs?

    We can do Better as the theme on Burke’s video and at the DPW site. No coordination there I guess. /s

  9. Duane12 says:

    I got the inside scoop on Mary Burke very early in the year that her name, although relatively unknown to the general public, was at the top of the list. Another name on that list surprisingly was Donald Driver of Packer fame.

    I researched Burke’s education and career/business background and viewed her equal to Senator Vinehout but very unequal in more vital areas. Former professor Vinehout has the outstanding experience/ credentials of conveying, explaining, and getting to the bottom of a subject or issue in simple and understandable terms. In other words, she has a huge advantage as a truth teller and teacher.

    I thought Ms. Burke’s announcement was rather sparse in revealing her credentials and suggested to me a degree of haughtiness or entitlement and thus I dubbed her of royal lineage. If and when she displays humility, I will call her “sister” Burke in her commonality as a fellow Democrat.

    I will accept either of these women as governor of Wisconsin, but reluctantly Burke, just as I accepted the less experienced Barack over Hillary. Or does that make me a racist rather than misogynist?

  10. Wis. Conservative Digest says:

    The Doyle /Burke team lost us a cumulative 550,000 jobs during their 8 years. We could expect the same.
    During Tommy’s 8 years, including a recession he gained 400,000 jobs while Doyle lost 150,000 by bad management. Why would Burke be any different? From what I can see the only thing that she is professional at is snowboarding.

  11. John Casper says:


    Glad you support collective bargaining for public sector workers. Glad you’re angry with Walker for refusing the $800,000,000 in federal funds for Tommy’s idea, high speed rail. Glad you won’t be voting for Walker in 2014.

    Do you have a link to any of the claims you made above.

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