WASHINGTON — The president of Washington-based Emily’s List says the group is preparing to go all-in this year behind Democratic candidate for Wisconsin governor Mary Burke.
The political action committee that works to elect pro-choice Democratic women to public office declined to specify exactly how much it was planning to spend in the race, but it has so far given Burke $42,500.
Emily’s List and its affiliated group, Women Vote!, spent more than $3 million in 2012 to help elect Sen. Tammy Baldwin.
The group’s president, Stephanie Schriock, said Monday that the Wisconsin gubernatorial race is “absolutely a top priority.”
“You will see a lot of us in the state,” Schriock said. In addition, she said, “You will see Women Vote! play, I believe, in a fairly significant way.”
Helping Burke win would also do significant damage to Gov. Scott Walker’s chances in a 2016 bid, an added bonus, Schriock suggested.
“The polls remain close and it’s those kind of, really battleground races that are important to win for the people of Wisconsin in 2014, but also as we look to the next presidential race as well,” she said.
Polls taken in April reflect a tight race. One by Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling showed Walker leading Burke 48 percent to 45 percent. Another, by Republican-leaning Magellan Strategies found them tied with 47 percent each.
Burke still has an uphill money battle on her hands against Walker, but if Emily’s List invests as much in the race as it did in Baldwin’s, the impact could be significant. Burke had $1.3 million on hand as of Dec. 31, 2013, according to the most recent campaign finance report. Walker had $4.6 million.
Schriock singled out three issues in particular that she believes will motivate Wisconsin women to turn out for Burke -- including his rolling back tougher penalties for pay discrimination in 2012 and his falling short on his pledge to create 250,000 jobs, something Schriock said hurt families across Wisconsin.
She also highlighted a bill Walker signed privately on Friday, July 5, last year requiring women to undergo ultrasound exams before getting abortions.
“When you talk about health care and access to health care, I mean in the middle of the night, he signed into a law mandatory ultrasound bill,” Schriock said. She added that she doesn’t think many Wisconsin voters know about it, something Emily’s List hopes to change before November.
A spokeswoman for Walker’s campaign defended his record Monday and expressed confidence in his re-election.
“Under Governor Walker’s leadership, Wisconsin has balanced a $3.6 billion deficit, cut taxes by $2 billion, created more than 100,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate is at its lowest point since 2008, 5.9 percent,” spokeswoman Alleigh Marre said. “We’re confident that voters want to continue moving Wisconsin forward and have no desire to return to the failed policies of the past.”
She did not address Schriock’s accusations that the ultrasound law improperly restricts access to abortion. Walker’s office said at the time that “This bill improves a woman’s ability to make an informed choice that will protect her physical and mental health now and in the future.”
Burke’s campaign said she welcomes help from Emily’s List, even though she has criticized the governor for taking money from outside the state.
“She certainly has friends and supporters and people she’s worked with in the past who are in different places around the country, but it’s a matter of degree,” spokesman Joe Zepecki said. “And when you have an incumbent governor like Walker who is raising more than 50 percent of his money from outside the state, that should give people, that should raise many questions about what those folks’ agendas are.”
As of Dec. 31, 2013, Burke had raised $224,000 from out of state -- about 12 percent of her total $1.8 million haul. Walker had raised $4.6 million from outside Wisconsin -- about 53 percent of his 2013 fundraising total of $8.6 million.
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