MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Democrat Mary Burke tapped $400,000 of her own money on the way toward raising nearly $1.8 million in the opening months of her effort to knock off Republican Gov. Scott Walker, Burke's campaign said Thursday.
The fundraising totals are nearly identical to what Walker brought in during the last six months of 2009 before the 2010 election, but Burke raised it in less than three months. However, Walker doesn't have the personal wealth of Burke, a former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive and state Commerce Department secretary, who bolstered her totals by dipping into her bank account.
Burke, a member of the Madison school board, is running her first statewide campaign in an effort to knock off Walker, a rising star in the Republican Party who is frequently mentioned as a candidate for president in 2016.
Walker rose to fame among conservatives in 2011, when he successfully pushed through a law that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers. A year later, he became the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election. His campaign was fueled by massive donations from deep-pocketed conservatives around the country.
Walker's 2010 governor's race broke campaign spending records, but the 2012 recall shattered them.
Burke's totals show she will compete financially against Walker in this year's election, said Mike McCabe, director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which tracks money in politics.
Both Burke and Walker must submit their 2013 fundraising totals to the state by Jan. 31. Walker's spokesman, Jonathan Wetzel, said the fact that Burke wrote herself a check for nearly half a million dollars shows she will spend "whatever it takes."
"Gov. Walker is proud to have a campaign fueled by our grassroots donors, which will continue to be demonstrated in our report that will be released at the end of the month," Wetzel said in an email.
Burke's campaign manager, Maggie Brickerman, said Burke was confident she would have the resources necessary to compete.
Total spending in the 2010 governor's race, in which Walker defeated Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, topped $36 million. Total spending was about $32.5 million in 2006, when Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle won re-election over Republican challenger Mark Green.
McCabe said he expects fundraising by the candidates in this year's governor's race to be comparable to those two elections - but nowhere near the record-breaking $81 million in the 2012 recall. Normal campaign finance limits did not apply during much of that race due to rules governing recall elections.
In 2009, when Walker was Milwaukee County executive and mounting his run for governor, he reported raising $1.79 million in the last six months of the year. Barrett, who didn't get into the race until November 2009, raised $750,000.
In 2005, the incumbent Doyle raised $1.16 million in the last half of the year. His challenger Green brought in $712,000.
Mark Graul, a Republican operative who ran Green's campaign in 2006, said he thought Burke would have raised more.
"I don't think it's a particularly impressive number considering that Scott Walker is a national figure who has made it clear he will challenge the status quo of the left, and the status quo of the left is going to try to fund his opponent," Graul said.
Democratic political fundraiser Patrick Guarasci, of Milwaukee, said Burke's numbers were impressive.
"It shows tremendous strength for a first-time candidate for major office to put together this kind of money," he said.
Burke had been exploring a race for governor all summer but officially jumped in on Oct. 7. Her campaign said she entered 2014 with $1.3 million cash on hand.
Burke is the only announced Democratic candidate, but state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, of Alma, is also considering getting in. Vinehout ran in the 2012 recall but finished a distant third in the Democratic primary with 4 percent of the vote.