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Mary Burke brings campaign to Hudson

Mary Burke, the Democratic candidate for governor, came to Hudson last Friday afternoon to rally supporters and participate in the opening of a campaign office.

Burke helped Roy Sjoberg, co-chair of the St. Croix County Democrats, with the ceremonial ribbon-cutting for the office located on the second floor of the Hudson Professional Building, 901 Fourth St.

She was welcomed to the building by a group of around 50 enthusiastic backers.

“I know that with your support I am going to be the next governor of the great state of Wisconsin,” Burke told them in a stump speech following the ribbon-cutting.

She displayed a welcome sign given to her by a student at a Milwaukee elementary school, and used it to make her points. The student had written “better schools, better jobs” and “a better Wisconsin” next to crayon pictures he had drawn.

“I really can’t say it better than Victor,” Burke said. “I think when he wrote ‘a better Wisconsin’ he meant lower health care costs, too.”

“And that’s what this race is about. This is why I’m running,” she continued. “I’m really concerned that we are headed in the wrong direction.”

She accused Republican Gov. Scott Walker of undermining public education and said Wisconsin is “dead last” among 10 Midwestern states in job creation under his leadership.

“He promised us 250,000 jobs. And what have we got? Dead last in the Midwest,” she added for emphasis.

Burke ridiculed the jobs plan that Walker promoted in 2010 campaign, saying it was four pages long, and without the pictures of himself, two pages.

The humor at Walker’s expense brought laughter from the audience.

“I’ve seen eighth-grade term papers with more thought put into them than that plan,” Burke continued. “Well, we deserve better. If you’re going to make promises to win an election, at least have a well-thought-out plan on how you are going to fulfill that promise.

“We deserve a governor who puts the people ahead of the special interests. We deserve a governor who puts commonsense solutions ahead of politics. We deserve a governor who believes in bringing people together, because that’s how we do our best work.”

Burke also hit the governor on his decision not to accept federal funds to increase the number of people qualifying for Medicaid, and on environmental protection and women’s issues.

“A better Wisconsin is certainly one where politicians are not messing with women’s health care decisions” and “letting mining companies rewrite our environmental laws,” she said.

Burke’s father, Richard, started Trek Bicycle Corp. in a Waterloo barn in 1976, when she was 17 years old. She’s now 55 and the company sells about 1.5 million bikes annually, generating about $800 million a year in sales.

According to Burke’s campaign website,, Trek employs close to 1,000 people in Wisconsin, with an annual payroll of over $50 million.

A graduate of Georgetown University and Harvard School of Business, Burke is a former Trek executive, but hasn’t played an active role in the company for some time.

She served as Wisconsin’s secretary of commerce under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle from 2005 to 2007.

Burke lives in a modest home in Madison that her grandfather used to deliver mail to as a postman. She’s never been married and serves on the Madison School Board.

She appealed to her St. Croix County supporters to turn out at least 15,000 Democratic voters in the Nov. 4 election. The county had nearly 20,000 Democratic votes in the 2012 presidential election, but closer to 10,000 in the 2010 gubernatorial election, she noted.

“So what this tells me is the votes are out there. A lot of votes are out there,” Burke said. “This is going to be a really tight race … We will win this, hands down, if you deliver 15,000 votes.”

“Piece of cake,” Sjoberg told her.

The Walker campaign says the governor and Republican Legislature have greatly improved Wisconsin’s business climate, and that the state is headed in the right direction on job growth.