DANE, Wis. (AP) — Republican Gov. Scott Walker, touting nearly $2 billion in tax cuts over the past three years and the addition of more than 100,000 jobs, officially launched his re-election campaign Tuesday with a series of rallies across Wisconsin.
Walker told about 200 supporters in Madison he deserves a second term because the state is better off now than when he took over nearly four years ago. He made no mention of a much-speculated possible run for president in 2016 or his Democratic opponent in this year's race, Mary Burke.
"Wisconsin is back," Walker said on the plant floor at Dane Manufacturing. "Wisconsin is on the right track again."
Burke, a former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive and state commerce secretary, is running her first statewide campaign and will face Walker on Nov. 4. The race is one of the most closely watched in the country, as Walker seeks to get elected for a third time in four years. In 2012 he became the first governor in U.S. history to defeat a recall.
Walker has not said whether he plans to run for president in 2016, but he's also refused to commit to serving a full four-year term if re-elected as governor. The publication of Walker's book last fall describing his fight against unions and the recall, along with aggressively tapping national donors and keeping a high profile at Republican events, has stoked talk of a presidential bid.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a potential 2016 presidential GOP primary challenger to Walker, issued a statement in his role as chairman of the Republican Governors Association praising Walker's work.
"This is a governor who gets things done," Christie said in the release. "In Scott Walker's Wisconsin, government works, ideas win and true independence from big government is within reach."
Walker is making his case for a second term pointing to the nearly $2 billion in tax cuts he's signed into law that have passed the Republican-controlled Legislature. The state has also added more than 100,000 private sector jobs since he took office.
But Walker promised in 2010 to add 250,000 private sector jobs by the end of this year — a pledge he is not likely to fulfill.
Burke, who was campaigning in central Wisconsin on Tuesday, said in an interview that Walker's job promise failure should be a key issue for voters.
"His game plan has failed," Burke said, pointing out that Wisconsin is 35th nationally in job creation.
Burke said her economic development plan coupled with her experience creating jobs as an executive at Trek, a company founded by her father, makes her a better choice than Walker, who has been in elective office since he was 25-years-old starting in 1993.
Walker's jobs promise was highlighted in statements attacking Walker issued Tuesday both by the Democratic National Committee and American Bridge 21st Century, a political action committee funded by liberal billionaire George Soros.
A Marquette University law school poll released last month showed that 73 percent of respondents said the jobs pledge was very or somewhat important to their vote. Only 26 percent said the promise was not important.
That same poll showed Burke trailing Walker by 7 points. It had a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.
Over his first term Walker also expanded the state's private school voucher program statewide, signed into law a concealed carry law, and a requirement that voters show photo identification at the polls, but that is on hold pending court challenges.
Walker also rejected federal Medicaid expansion, instead taking a path that resulted in about 75,000 people losing state BadgerCare coverage while a roughly similar number of childless adults were brought into the program. For the first time, everyone in poverty has access to Medicaid coverage.
Walker also got a two-year tuition freeze instituted for all UW campuses last year and just last week proposed extending that for another two years.
Walker, who wore a red University of Wisconsin Badgers shirt at the first event outside of Madison, said in his campaign speech that his goal was to reduce the dependency on government and increase the dependency on hard work and pride.
"We're definitely not done yet," Walker said to sign-waving backers.
The same themes were echoed in a new 60-second television ad Walker released statewide on Monday.
Burke has said she does not support voucher school statewide, she backs legalizing same-sex marriage and increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.
Burke also said she supports collective bargaining rights, but she has not pledged to repeal the law Walker championed in 2011 that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers. Walker's push for that law shortly after he took office led to massive protests and the recall, which Walker won in June 2012.