Regional
4:25 pm
Mon July 28, 2014

'Outsourcing' Captures Focus in Wisconsin's Governor's Race

The business practice of outsourcing remains center stage in the race for governor.  Gov. Walker criticizes Democratic challenger Mary Burke for profiting from her family’s company, Trek Bicycle, which has outsourced production overseas.

Gov. Walker continues to attack challenger Mary Burke's record as an executive with her family's company, Trek Bicycle.
Gov. Walker continues to attack challenger Mary Burke's record as an executive with her family's company, Trek Bicycle.

At an appearance in the Milwaukee area Monday, Walker went further, saying he would support cutting off tax breaks for any Wisconsin firm that sends work abroad.

Burke has fired back, accusing Walker of not understanding how a global company operates.

J.R. Ross, of WisPolitics.com, says two factors are driving the focus on outsourcing.

“One – Mary Burke, the foundation of her candidacy has been her experience at Trek, that she is not a career politician, she is an outsider," Ross says. "And she has pointed out often her experience at Trek as a reason people should vote her into office."

"Gov.Walker’s campaign is trying to make [Burke’s] strength a weakness by trying to point to, what they believe, as hypocrisy on her part because she’s criticizing others for outsourcing or calling for an increase in the minimum wage while the company that she has touted, her family business, has profited from outsourcing jobs to China,” Ross says.

“Two – if you look at the polls right now, Gov. Walker has a ceiling of about 48 percent or 49 percent," Ross says. "If you look at Mary Burke’s numbers, however, she’s right there with him, but she’s also not very well known by the public. It is, in the minds of people I talk to, easier, more effective possibly and probably cheaper for Gov. Walker to spend money on TV ads that tear down Mary Burke’s numbers rather than break through the ceiling that he’s up against right now."

"Even if it’s a neck-and-neck race right now, if Gov. Walker can peel away 2 percent to 3 percent of the Democratic base who might not be happy about this outsourcing stuff, that could be enough to help him over the hump come November," Ross says.

Ross says the focus on outsourcing has gotten a relatively cool reception in the business community – a key Republican base.

“Some Republicans I’ve talked to, they kind of understand why he’s doing it, but they’re not quite comfortable with it," Ross says. "The party has stood for celebrating economic success and being in favor of economic freedom, or allowing business to operate in the best way they can to turn a profit. So for them it’s kind of counterintuitive for what the party stands for."

With the latest Marquette Law School poll showing the candidates running extremely close, Ross expects Walker to continue his attempts to raise questions about Burke’s credentials, and Burke blasting the governor on his jobs record.

“The governor has touted 100,000 created and that’s more than what were created in the three-year term that Burke was Gov. Doyle’s commerce secretary, but that’s well below the 250,000 [Walker] promised Wisconsin in four-year period that ends in January,” Ross says.