Defeating Republican Gov. Scott Walker and electing Democrat Mary Burke will be a top priority for the pro-abortion rights group EMILY’s List, its spokeswoman Marcy Stech said earlier this month.
Stech would not say how much the well-funded Washington-based group, which backs female candidates who support abortion rights, plans to spend on the race. EMILY’s List and its partners were major players in Wisconsin’s 2012 Senate race, spending nearly $5 million to help elect Tammy Baldwin over Republican Tommy Thompson.
Outside spending in this year’s governor’s race is expected to be significant, especially given Walker’s rising national prominence and possible 2016 presidential run. Walker, who was in New York City recently for a Republican National Committee fundraiser, has also proven himself capable of luring huge donations and support nationwide.
Total spending in Walker’s first run for governor broke $36 million, the highest ever for a governor’s race. That record was shattered in 2012 when Walker was forced to stand for a recall election following passage of a law effectively ending collective bargaining for most public workers. Spending during the recall hit $81 million. Normal campaign finance limits did not apply during much of that race due to rules governing recall elections.
The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which tracks spending on elections in the state, has estimated this year’s governor’s race between Burke and Walker could top $40 million.
Support from outside groups like EMILY’s List will help Burke chip away at Walker’s expected financial advantage. At the beginning of this year, Walker had $4.6 million cash on hand compared with $1.3 million for Burke. Burke, a former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive and member of the Madison school board, is running her first statewide campaign. She already has tapped $400,000 of her personal wealth on the effort.
Walker’s campaign spokeswoman Alleigh Marre did not directly address the EMILY’s List plans, but instead said voters would reward Walker for cutting taxes by nearly $2 billion, balancing a $3.6 billion shortfall and being in charge while more than 100,000 private sector jobs have been created and unemployment is at its lowest point since 2008.
Stech said women will be motivated to vote for Burke because Walker signed a Republican-sponsored bill repealing a 2009 law that made it easier for women to sue over wage discrimination. She also said that Walker’s failure to add 250,000 private sector jobs, as he promised in the 2010 campaign, hurts families across the state. Stech also said EMILY’s List planned to criticize Walker’s signing of a bill last year that requires an ultrasound to be performed before a woman can have an abortion.
Burke’s campaign spokesman Joe Zepecki turned the focus of the EMILY’s List planned spending to an indictment of Walker for raising more than half of his campaign donations from people who live outside of Wisconsin.