MADISON, Wisconsin — Democrat Mary Burke's first television ad in the race against Republican Gov. Scott Walker will begin airing in multiple markets Friday, touting her background with bicycle maker Trek while also attacking Walker's record on jobs.
The ad, released by Burke's campaign online Wednesday, comes eight months before the November election and signals the race is heating up. Walker's campaign has yet to release an ad but the Republican Governors Association launched a pair of spots last month that a liberal group tracking spending said cost $1.2 million.
Burke references the RGA ads in her first spot, which mixes details about her history as an executive at Trek Bicycle Corp. with attacks on Walker's record. Burke does not speak in the 30-second spot, but it shows various images of her, including video of her inspecting bicycles as they're being assembled.
Trek was formed by Burke's father, John Burke, in Waterloo in 1976. Burke worked there two different times, from 1990 to 1993 and again from 1995 to 2004. Burke served as state Commerce Secretary under Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle from 2005 to 2007.
Burke currently serves as a member of the Madison school board. This is her first statewide race.
Walker is seeking re-election at the same time he's widely considered to be a 2016 Republican presidential hopeful. How well the state's economy is performing under Walker, and whether Burke offers a better alternative, is expected to be a central theme of the race.
Burke's spokesman, Joe Zepecki, said her campaign was spending six figures to buy time on broadcast and cable stations in multiple markets. He would not disclose which markets or the exact amount of the buy.
In Burke's ad, a narrator says that "under Walker, unemployment is up." In supporting materials, Burke's campaign notes that unemployment never was higher than 4.8 percent while she was at the Commerce Department, while it's never been lower than 6.2 percent since Walker's been governor.
But when Walker took office the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent, and it's steadily decreased during the past three years.
"Everybody knows that unemployment is down since I took office," Walker said Wednesday following a speech when he was asked to react to the ad. "When people measure the facts up, they'll see that we're definitely moving the state forward after many years of it moving backwards."
Wisconsin Republican Party executive director Joe Fadness said Burke was misleading voters and distracting them from unemployment that hit 9.2 percent during the recession while Doyle was governor, the loss of 133,000 jobs and a budget shortfall that topped out at more than $3 billion.
The RGA ads focused on Burke's time at the Commerce Department, highlighting a critical audit of the department that covers a time including when she was secretary. The ad also faults Trek for outsourcing jobs overseas.
In Burke's ad, she spotlights her time at Trek, noting the company employs 930 people in Wisconsin. At the same time, Burke references several high-profile companies, including American TV and SC Johnson, which have recently announced layoffs.