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