Burke blames Walker for Trek story; Walker denies planting it
Governor says media more focused on his bald spot than his opponent
 

Associated Press

October 31, 2014


 
SHEBOYGAN — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke fought back Thursday against accusations that she was fired from her family business at Trek Bicycles, calling the claims by a former company president ‘‘complete lies’’ being put forward by Republican Gov. Scott Walker and his allies.

Walker denied planting the story, saying he had heard rumors for months but didn’t feel it was up to him to raise the issue. He blamed the media for not properly vetting Burke, who is running her first statewide campaign in an attempt to deny him a second term.

‘‘You covered the bald spot in my head more than you’ve covered my opponent,’’ Walker said to reporters after a tour of Polyfab Corp. in Sheboygan.

Former Trek president Tom Albers said Wednesday that Burke was fired as Trek’s head of overseas operations in 1993 because of financial losses. Burke and her brother, current Trek CEO John Burke, said she left the job willingly as part of a company reorganization. They also both defended her record at Trek, saying overseas sales grew from $3 million to $50 million during her time, although they haven’t provided any records to support that assertion.

The accusation Burke was fired Wednesday came on the same day that a Marquette University Law School poll showed her trailing Walker by 7 points among voters likely to cast ballots in Tuesday’s election. That was Walker’s biggest lead in the poll, which two weeks ago showed the race even.

During a campaign stop Thursday at Port Washington polyurethane manufacturing company Molded Dimensions, Burke said she still believed the race was closer than the poll indicated. She said the Trek comments were ‘‘complete lies’’ and a ‘‘fabrication’’ meant to hurt her campaign just days from Tuesday’s election.


‘‘Scott Walker is not going to stop at anything,’’ Burke said. ‘‘He is a career politician who will do anything to win an election, including lies and smears, dragging a great Wisconsin company through the mud. ... This type of lies and allegations frankly shouldn’t be part of politics.’’

But Walker, campaigning alongside Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, said he was focused on his record and plans for the next four years, not whether Burke was fired.

‘‘We haven’t talked about it because unless somebody can validate it that’s not really my business to be talking about it,’’ Walker said. ‘‘The bottom line is I’m not talking about it, I’m not behind it, I don’t need to talk about it. I need to talk about how this state is headed in the right direction.’’

Walker was to be joined on the campaign trail today by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour as part of his final push. They have stops planned in the Wausau area and Rhinelander.

Burke was to campaign Friday in Madison, Marshfield and Green Bay.

Friday also is the final day for voters to cast in-person absentee ballots.

Walker is going before voters for a third time in four years, and is widely considered to be a potential 2016 candidate for president should he win.

Burke, who was state Commerce Department secretary under former Gov. Jim Doyle for nearly three years after two stints at Trek, is in her first statewide campaign. She has spent $5 million of her own money trying to defeat Walker, whom national union leaders have said is a top target in this year’s midterm elections.

National AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka planned to campaign for Burke outside Miller Brewery in Milwaukee on Thursday during the afternoon shift change.