MADISON, Wis. (BRAIN) — Former Trek executive Mary Burke, running for governor in her homestate, quickly hit back when her opponent began running a TV ad attacking Trek for its overseas manufacturing. Mary Burke’s brother, Trek president John Burke, also told a local paper that the ad should be taken down.
This week incumbent Republican Scott Walker’s campaign began running a 30-second TV ad in which a woman tells her children about jobs being shipped to China and that some Chinese workers are paid only $2 an hour. The ad does not mention Trek by name.
Mary Burke responded with a video response and an email to supporters Friday.
“Yesterday, Scott Walker launched an outrageous ad full of misleading claims about Trek Bicycle,” the email reads. “Let's set the record straight … Fact: Almost 1,000 people in Wisconsin work at Trek, a successful company that I helped build. Fact: Trek makes more bikes in the US than anyone else. Fact: Walker's WEDC approved millions in tax breaks for companies that relocated jobs overseas. Fact: Wisconsin is dead last in the Midwest in job growth.
“We need more Wisconsin success stories like Trek. Instead, Walker is choosing to attack a great Wisconsin business - a business that his flagship jobs agency has had as its poster child up until very recently. It is truly the height of hypocrisy.”
A spokeswoman for Walker’s campaign defended the ad.
"There is no disputing the fact that Mary Burke made millions of dollars off shipping Wisconsin jobs overseas," Walker campaign spokeswoman Alleigh Marré told the (Milwaukee) Journal Sentinel. “The ad's claims were true. We stand by the ad and it will remain on the air.”
John Burke told the Journal Sentinel that Walker should pull the ad.
“As a point of principle, the ad's wrong," John Burke said. “Mary had nothing to do with sourcing decisions at Trek. Those decisions were made by my father and myself.”
Burke also told the paper he didn't know how much workers in factories that make Trek bikes are paid, but that Trek made sure they were treated fairly.
"I do know that we treat people very well," Burke said. "We have strict guidelines. We have people in those plants. We are very diligent."
In a later story, BRAIN editor Lynette Carpiet and BPSA executive director Ray Keener told the Journal Sentinel that Trek was to be commended for making as many bikes in the U.S. as it does. Keener and Carpiet each told the paper that nearly all bikes are made in China or Taiwan and that Trek could not be competitive manufacturing wholly in the U.S.
Recent polls show a tight race, with Walker leading Burke among likely voters by a few percentage points, but polls also show the race is tightening.