By Bill Kaplan
Mary Burke has been campaigning throughout Wisconsin. And, the Burke campaign has run effective TV ads, some quite moving and positive. The gubernatorial race is now a toss-up, and the two debates between Burke and Walker Introduced her to more voters. What did we learn?
Burke showed she could go toe to toe with incumbent Walker, offering a comprehensive program and vision. Moreover, she looked and sounded gubernatorial. Key tests when a challenger faces off with an incumbent. Walker seemed disconcerted that the election is not a coronation. And, his references to average Wisconsinites sounded like he was looking for a lifeline. There's more.
Trust your eyes. Burke is what she appears to be, a straightforward businesswoman who is a problem solver. She pledges to "put the politics aside" and be open to good ideas, Democratic or Republican. In short, Burke is a progressive pragmatist. A good example is her support of Medicaid expansion with 100 percent federal funding. It would be good for Wisconsinites that need health care coverage, save money for taxpayers and reduce the state's growing budget deficit. Moreover, 9 GOP govs. agree with Burke and have implemented Medicaid expansion.
Increasingly voters look aghast at career politicians. And, Burke's business background and down-to-earth manner reflect authenticity. Burke is not calculating or slick. She is uninterested in ideology, only what works to move the state forward. More to the point Burke has a common touch and is empathetic like former GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson.
In 1991 Thompson took action through an administrative rule to increase the Badger State's minimum wage when confronted with unmistakable evidence that it was inadequate. Similarly, Burke supports an increase in the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour, giving regular folks a "fair shot". Thompson and Burke stand in contrast to Walker who has just blown off the issue.
Yes, Burke is a progressive pragmatist, acting out of public service and love of Wisconsin. She is cut from the same mold as former Democratic U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, a businessman who understood regular folks. And, Burke is her own person, notwithstanding Walker's bringing up former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle ad infinitum (Walker always blames others when he falls short). She believes in compromise, negotiation and respect for the opposition party. All components of successful and inclusive governance. Gov. Burke would skip appeals to fear and extremism while bringing Wisconsin back together again. No "divide and conquer".
-- Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 - 2009.