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Little-known Democrat tries to unseat Scott Walker

Little-known Democrat tries to unseat Scott Walker

April 18th, 2014 in News

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Wisconsin Democrats and their allies who are trying to take out Republican Gov. Scott Walker have invested all their hopes in Mary Burke, a Harvard-educated political newcomer whose father started Trek Bicycle when she was a teenager.

For Democrats and their friends in organized labor, this race is personal. They mean to avenge Walker's evisceration of union power as he builds his resume for a possible presidential run.

But for Burke, the campaign also poses an awkward challenge: She can't talk too stridently about her opponent's most provocative actions for fear of alienating independent voters, many of whom supported both Walker's union crackdown and President Barack Obama's re-election bid. And they will decide this contest, too.

That forces Burke to talk about supporting unions, but not to the point of overturning the law that took away nearly all collective-bargaining rights for public workers. She's even spoken in favor of the law's requirement that workers pay more for their health insurance and pension benefits.

"She flirts with that, and I think that's the best anyone is going to come up with in a campaign," said John Matthews, president of the Madison teachers union.

Such delicate maneuvering would be a test for even a seasoned office seeker. But this is Burke's first statewide campaign after working as a state commerce secretary and a Trek executive. The 54-year-old launched the bid less than two years after being elected to her first position, a seat on the Madison school board.