Democrats Divided Over Mary Burke


Wisconsin Democrats are divided, and the stage is set for a primary election pitting heavy-handed Party Bosses against Democratic activists. Party Bosses handpicked millionaire Mary Burke in a backroom, and they have gone to great lengths to clear the field for her (see Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris). But State Senator Kathleen Vinehout has refused to back down to pressure, and her candidacy appears to be imminent, forcing a Democratic primary.

In a revealing show of tension, both factions of the divided Democratic Party are holding their ground. Read what they are saying here.

Party Bosses Working to Prevent a Vinehout Candidacy

  • Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, recently in the state, proclaimed that “the DNC would look unfavorably on a primary in Wisconsin.” (“Despite long odds, Vinehout sounding as if she’ll run against Burke,” Bill Glauber, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 30, 2013)
  • We’ve got an incredible candidate in Mary Burke. If we stay close in spending, she’ll win.” – Mark Giangreco of the Democratic Governors Association in a fundraising email, giving the cold shoulder to Vinehout and the idea of a Democratic Primary (Mark Giangreco, Democratic Governors Association fundraising email, December 19, 2013)
  • Former Congressman Dave Obey has also said “a primary could hurt the party’s chances.(“Despite long odds, Vinehout sounding as if she’ll run against Burke,” Bill Glauber, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 30, 2013)
  • Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate, against the wishes of the base, has claimed Burke would be the Democratic Party’s candidate: “If (Burke) were to run she’d be an instant frontrunner, ”- (“State Dem leader: Mary Burke could be frontrunner, clear the field,” Matt Defour, Wisconsin State Journal, August 29, 2013)
  • “I think the most important thing for Wisconsin voters is that Kathleen Vinehout is still serving in public office in 2015.” – State Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate, on “UpFront with Mike Gousha,” signaling that Vinehout should run to retain the 31st Senate District. (“State Democratic leader Mike Tate hints Kathleen Vinehout should not run for governor,” Tom Kertscher, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 4, 2013)

Anti-Burke Democrats and The Grassroots

  • I don’t look at her as being someone who epitomizes a candidate that everyday people and the progressive Wisconsin movement can get behind.” – Ryan Wherley, a Madison liberal activist (“Wisconsin State Journal, “Mary Burke, Kathleen Vinehout each find supporters at Fighting Bob Fest,” Dennis Punzel, 09/08/13)
  • It is time to stop stacking the deck by the party officials and telling voters why they should be excited about Burke’s views.” – Ed Garvey, Bob Fest organizer and activist (Ed Garvey, Garvey Blog, “So is the money the only reason, or does Tate see something else?,” 09/01/13)
  • My pro-Burke column was sharply criticized by many on the left, most stridently by those who regard themselves as the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party. I was maligned in print, and, I am told, on talk radio.” – Paul Fanlund, Capital Times Editor on his Burke column that was widely panned by Democrats (Paul Fanlund, “With Mary Burke In, The Liberal Jury Is Out,” The Capitol Times, 10/8/13)
  • “I was at an event with Mary Burke the other day…She’s got the charisma of a turnip.”
  • - Democrat Rep. Brett Hulsey, on Burke’s candidacy (“Lawmaker spends campaign funds on used convertible, triathlon,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 08/06/13)
  • John ‘Sly’ Sylvester, liberal talk radio host, has continually criticized Mary Burke’s candidacy including her latest press conference here.(, 10/09/13)
  • Can we please put an end to the Mary Burke for Governor talk?” – Liberal blogger Jeff Simpson from Cognitive Dissidence (Cognitive Dissidence, “Same Old Song,” 08/28/13)
  • If the best that WISDEMS can come up with is Mary Burke, we’re screwed.” – Chris Liebenthal, Cognitive Dissidence blogger on Burke as the Democratic Candidate (Chris Liebenthal Twitter, Blogger, Cognitive Dissidence, 07/19/13)
  • Burke is even less liked by the Democratic base in Wisconsin than Tom Barrett is.” – Daily Kos Blog on Mary Burke’s candidacy (Cognitive Dissidence, “Same Old Song,” 08/28/13)
  • Burke has done little nothing to articulate what she stands for, and while many within Wisconsin’s Democratic establishment may believe that to be a winning strategy, I’m less than inspired.” – Liberal blog, Blogging Blue (Zachary, “Mary Burke For Governor? Meh…” Blogging Blue, 10/7/13)
  • The Capital Times Editor Paul Fanlund questioned whether the “Far Left would undermine Burke’s candidacy” because Burke Lacks the “credibility so common to admired Democratic resumes.” (Zachary, “Mary Burke For Governor? Meh…” Blogging Blue, 10/7/13)
  • Jack Craver, Capital Times Reporter, said it all in his Burke story last month: HEADLINE: “Mary Burke Faces Criticism From Wisconsin Democrats.” (Zachary, “Mary Burke For Governor? Meh…” Blogging Blue, 10/7/13)

Democrats Who Are Opposing Their Own Party’s Strategy:

  • This year the rules seem to have changed without a comment or request for input from rank-and-file Democrats.” – Ed Garvey, on the Democrats’ strategy to clear the field (“Who is Mary Burke?”, Garvey Blog – Fighting Bob, 07/27/13)
  • Apparently, pressure was put on Harris (or at least arguments were made to him) that a primary was a bad thing. Now that is, in another single word, ridiculous.” - Former Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz on Winnebago County Executive Mark Harris being forced out of the race in favor of Burke (“Who is Mary Burke?”, Garvey Blog – Fighting Bob, 07/27/13)
  • I 100 percent disagree with it. I think it’s a terrible strategy.”– John Nichols, The Capital Times columnist on Democrats’ 2014 strategy (“Democrats wait on 2014 candidate,” WISN News, 07/27/13)
  • First off, the way Dems have tried to both choose Burke and keep their choice under wraps is an insult to our intelligence.”Blue Cheddar, a Progressive Wisconsin Blog (bluecheddar, “My Thoughts (Negative) On Mary Burke Running For Governor,” Blue Cheddar Blog, 10/7/13)

State Senator Kathleen Vinehout, Likely Democratic Opponent:

  • “While Vinehout may determine defeating a well-financed Burke in a primary is too tall an order, Vinehout said it could work the other way if the tone of the Democratic electorate turns out to be: ‘Don’t shove a millionaire heiress down our throats.’”(“State senator mulls over run for governor,” Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, 07/25/13)
  • “It isn’t all about money. It’s about the support of people all around the state and about how hard they’re willing to work.” (“State senator mulls over run for governor,” Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, 07/25/13)
  • I think that Chairman Tate very much would like to have a situation where there was no primary,” but added that “the candidate with all the money maybe isn’t the best candidate.” (“State senator mulls over run for governor,” Eau Claire Leader-Telegram, 07/25/13)
  • Running for office is a great education. Everybody should do it at least once.” (Kathleen Vinehout, Statement, 10/07/13)
  • Efforts to dissuade me haven’t been very successful…I find them mostly amusing.” – (“Despite long odds, Vinehout sounding as if she’ll run against Burke,” Bill Glauber, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, November 30, 2013)
  • A lot of people are asking me, ‘She hasn’t been around, we don’t know where she is,’” – Vinehout on Burke’s campaign (Vinehout Interview, Upfront with Mike Gousha, 11/17/13)