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    Posted October 13, 2014 by
    Eau Claire, Wisconsin

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    Walker-Burke Debate Provides Candidate Contrasts


    CNN PRODUCER NOTE     mediaman was with the press gaggle covering this debate in the Wisconsin governor's race. He believes stories about poltiical debates make for a better informed society.
    - hhanks, CNN iReport producer

    The political pressure for the upcoming midterm Wisconsin elections on November 4th picked up steam as the first debate for governor got under way on Friday, October 10th. In this, the first televised debate between sitting Republican Governor Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke, differences between the two campaigns came into clearer focus, while other topics were simply avoided.


    The majority of the invited press for the debate, sponsored by Wisconsin Broadcasters Association, was not allowed in the Mayo Clinic auditorium in Eau Claire, Wisconsin during the broadcast. Instead most of the press core were crowded into a small room, provided with two live media feeds as the group took notes and wrote their news items for print, TV, and radio. Still the venue offered some important clues on the candidate's platforms. The debate provided insights into the strategies each candidate had in capturing the ever-important undecided voter.


    The debate covered a wide variety of issues including voter ID and rights, abortion, jobs, budget, education, and the minimum wage issue. Mary Burke’s opening comment was, “I am running for Governor to focus on what works for you, and your family. I am a fourth generation Wisconsinite…every day I am reminded of my deep Wisconsin roots and the values I was brought up on. And one of those values is that everyone deserves a fair shot to get ahead if they are willing to put in the hard work.”


    In Walker’s opening comments he said, “As I traveled the state four years ago I decided then and there that I was going to aim high, and set a big goal of 250,000 jobs. Now we have come a long way but we’re not done yet. Think about it, we went from losing 133,000 in the four years before I took office, to gaining 100,000 jobs since Wisconsin ranks third in the Midwest for private sector job creation from July of last year to July of this year. Tonight my opponent is going to spend a lot of time using old and outdated data trying to criticize and attack the Wisconsin comeback.”


    Burke followed up by saying, “Four years ago Gov. Walker promised us 250,000, that’s a broken promise. We are not even close. In fact we are dead last in the Midwest in jobs creation.” And with that comment, the debate gained momentum.


    Over the course of the debate, both candidates were alternately given the chance to first respond, and have rebuttals and follow ups. Early on, Walker was polished and appeared comfortable with his stature as an experienced debater. Burke, perhaps with less live debate experience started more slowly, but gained momentum, especially with one of the first hot topics regarding the state’s voter ID issue. Just one day earlier, the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Walker’s administration’s attempt to require photo ID’s for every eligible voter in the state to vote.


    Shawn Johnson, from Wisconsin Public Television asked the candidates if Wisconsin voters were better off after the 6-3 Supreme Court voter ID decision, and if Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen was exploring ways to still begin implementing voter ID before Election Day, even with the ruling.


    Burke responded to the voter ID issues by saying, “It’s part of democracy here in Wisconsin and the across the U.S. that people are able to vote. I am concerned we are putting roadblocks in front of people’s ability to vote, and the Federal Judge indicated that there are 300,000 that could be hurt by this law.”



    Walker countered saying, “The (current) law in Wisconsin is simple, it’s easy to vote, but hard to cheat. Now for us, this is a common sense reform that protects the integrity of each and every vote.” Walker continued by saying he was in a recent town hall meeting in Appleton when one person asked him how many cases of fraud there have been in the state.


    Walker said, “It doesn’t matter if there is one, 100, or 1,000. I ask us who amongst us who would be that one person who would like to have our vote canceled out by a vote that was case illegally.”


    Burke wasted no time rebutting saying, “It is shocking to me that Governor Walker doesn’t even care, if there is only one instance of fraud and yet he would put these road blocks in front of 300,000 people who would find it difficult to get that ID and to vote even though there is no documented cases of fraud and that could cost millions and millions of dollars. That’s just not common sense.”


    As the debate turned to jobs and minimum wage, Governor Walker began avoiding answering some of the questions. When Walker would not answer the question directly, Keith Edwards from WQOW News 18 Eau Claire said, “Governor Walker I need an answer, do you believe a Wisconsin worker can live on a minimum wage, do you believe the state has an obligation to make sure workers are paid some sort of minimum wage, and if so what would that be? Again, Walker avoided answering the question directly.

    On two occasions, when the questions turned to ACT 10, a law striping collective bargaining rights of public workers and on strip and frac mining in the state, Governor Walker attempted to talk beyond his allotted time, and his microphone was subsequently muted. In her rebuttal, Burke took a jab by pointing out that Walker pushed legislation and easing environmental regulations for Gogebic Taconite to build a strip mining operation in northern Wisconsin. According to reports, the mine could extend 21 miles.


    On frac mining Walker commented, “we have some of the best frac sand in the world and many of the rural parts of the state) have been a tremendous economic boom creating jobs and opportunity….and we want to continue that going forward.”


    Burke said, “I do have concerns on whether we are balancing job creation with protecting our natural resources.” She continued saying, saying, “What I am concerned about it big money and special interests are driving the decisions in the Governor’s office instead of what’s of is good for the people in Wisconsin and local communities.” She pointed out that “there was a secret $700,000 campaign contribution from an out of state corporation and Governor Walker changed the rules so that we had the corporation strip mining in our north woods… and I think most people in Wisconsin think it that should be illegal if it’s not.”


    The debate continued for one hour, with each candidate taking on social issues such as abortion, and fiscal issues such as a looming deficit or surplus in the Wisconsin state budget. At the end of the debate, neither candidate offered personal interviews but rather had their campaign spokesperson address the press.


    In the final analysis, Walker deftly handled the line of questioning, but on a number of issues, simply refused to answer questions. Burke, picked up steam after the first 10 minutes and equaled Walker’s ability to debate, and took firm aim on his jobs pledge, the environment, and campaign contributions from out of state corporate interests. Contrasts between both candidates were readily apparent. Another debate is schedule for October 17th in Milwaukee. Governor Walker declined to debate Mary Burke on Wisconsin Public Television and Radio October 16th. According to the station’s policy, Burke will be given 60 minutes of air time to herself.


    Polling between the two candidates has been statistically tied recently. CBS/NYT/YouGov Poll Sept 20-October 1st puts Burke at +1 and Gravis Marketing/TownHall.com Poll from October 3-4, puts Walker +4. Stay tuned.

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