Republicans call potential candidate "out-of-touch," overlooking their own party's foiblesThe Republican Party of Wisconsin is trying to depict a potential candidate for governor as “out of touch” with the middle class.
They’re wrong, and need to look at their own party's actions before making such assumptions.
Mary Burke, a member of the Madison school board and former Doyle administration cabinet appointee, is the daughter of Trek Bicycle founder Richard Burke.
As reported by the Journal Sentinel, Burke has paid more than $500,000 in taxes over the past five years -- a figure that puts her in the top one percent of income earners in the state.
But the assessment that Burke is somehow “out-of-touch” with the middle class is hypocritical, especially coming from the GOP, and also full of errors about Burke's character.
Since Gov. Scott Walker came to power, Republicans have passed several pieces of draconian legislation that have impeded the ability of low-income and middle class Wisconsinites from making ends meet during these hard economic times.
From cutting the Earned Income Tax Credit, to booting nearly 100,000 needy citizens from BadgerCare, to creating new barriers for unemployed workers to receive benefits, to the infamous Act 10 (which cut the incomes of thousands of state workers), the Republicans have quite the record when it comes to the middle class and the working poor.
The GOP being critical of Burke is outrageous for another reason: Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson is (at least) of equal wealth as her, yet Wisconsin conservatives simply state that his wealth adds to his credentials. Indeed, it was a moniker -- whether deserved or not -- that the Johnson campaign clung to vigorously in his senatorial campaign in 2010. What’s a strength for Johnson, however, is typified as a character flaw for Burke by the right.
It’s also very, very tough for Republicans to call Mary Burke “out-of-touch” when Gov. Walker himself is holding fundraisers where the minimum donation is $2,500 per plate.
The characterization of Mary Burke as an “out-of-touch” millionaire is a hypocritical statement on the part of the Wisconsin GOP. It’s also wrong, and indicative of how little Republicans actually know of her -- Burke has a strong understanding of the struggles of low-income and middle class families, as evidenced by her many donations and involvement in organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club and the Road Home. She also volunteers several hours of her week towards helping others who are less fortunate than herself:
She sits on five different boards of directors for area nonprofits. She volunteers twice weekly at Frank Allis Elementary. She mentors a sophomore in the AVID/TOPS program, as well as a teenage mother coming out of foster care. And through a program at Porchlight Inc., she has befriended a formerly homeless diabetic man.Burke’s personal story is also worth sharing:
"When I was growing up, my father was a small businessman with a family of seven to provide for, so we grew up like most middle-class families in Wisconsin," Burke said by email. "My commitment to creating jobs and opportunity so that more families can prosper in Wisconsin is why I'm looking so seriously at running for Governor."The Republican Party is wrong to state that Mary Burke is an “out-of-touch” millionaire. She is a very wealthy individual, with strong business credentials...and that’s exactly the reason the GOP is going after her. She's successful AND empathetic to the problems and challenges facing working class individuals today.
It’s BECAUSE she’s successful that Republicans feel the need to bring her down, before she’s even a declared candidate, because if a business-savvy woman stands up to Gov. Scott Walker, it can expose a vulnerability in Walker’s supposedly pro-business image.
The Democrats don’t need to rush to pick a candidate quite yet. Nor do they need to worry themselves with the possibility of a primary election. But Democrats (and those who typically identify with the party) shouldn't stand by while errant characterizations of a potential candidate are being thrown about either.
Mary Burke may become the eventual nominee for governor for the Democrats, and she may not. But if she does, it'd be beneficial to correct these baseless attacks before they become mainstream talking points of the right.