MADISON, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker reported Friday that he raised more than $5.1 million in the last half of 2013, nearly triple what Democratic challenger Mary Burke brought in over the three months since she got in the governor's race.
Walker's totals are impressive by any measure and blow away the $1.8 million he raised during the comparable period in 2009 when he first ran for governor.
Walker was catapulted onto the national stage during his fight with public sector unions in 2011, and the 2012 recall election that followed. After becoming the first governor ever to defeat a recall attempt, in a race that saw Walker haul in massive donations from deep-pocketed Republican donors around the country, he is now frequently mentioned as a possible candidate for president in 2016.
Burke, a former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive and member of the Madison school board, is running her first statewide campaign in an attempt to dim Walker's rising political stardom. She already has tapped $400,000 of her personal wealth on the effort.
Burke, who also previously served as state Commerce Department secretary, got in the race in early October after months of consideration. She previously has said that in less than three months she raised nearly $1.8 million, roughly the same amount Walker collected over the same period in 2009.
Burke spokesman Joe Zepecki said the fact that Walker brought in nearly three time more than Burke last year is not a surprise.
"Raising campaign cash from wealthy, out of state special interests has never been Walker's problem," Zepecki said in an email. "His problem is his approach — that if those at the very top are doing OK everyone else will feel the effects of trickle down — doesn't work. That's why Wisconsin isn't creating enough new jobs, that's why the middle class continues to worry about the future, and it's why Walker is so vulnerable politically."
Walker's campaign manager, Stephan Thompson, said in a statement that 75 percent of Walker's donations came from people giving $50 or less.
"It's the incredible support from the grassroots that will enable Governor Walker to continue moving Wisconsin forward," Thompson said.
Total spending in Walker's first run for governor broke $36 million, the highest ever for a governor's race. That record was shattered in Walker's recall election in 2012. Spending on that hit $81 million. Normal campaign finance limits did not apply during much of that race due to rules governing recall elections.
Spending this year will likely top $40 million but not come close to the recall, said Mike McCabe, director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign which tracks political spending.
"Walker's going to have the most money, there's no question about that," McCabe said. "We're going to see a lot of outside spending and a tremendous amount of candidate spending."
Burke's campaign has said she had $1.3 million cash on hand entering this year. Walker reported having $4.6 million.
Neither candidate had filed their full report listing the donations and expenditures as of midmorning Friday.
A Marquette University poll released Monday showed that Walker had expanded his lead over Burke compared with October, when she first got in the race. The poll showed Walker leading 47 percent to 41 percent, up from 47 percent to 45 percent three months ago. The poll had a margin of error of 3.5 percent.