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Gov. Walker Starts Campaign Year With Cash Advantage Over Burke

Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke
Gov. Scott Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke.

Gov. Scott Walker begins this year with more than three times as much money in his campaign fund than Democratic challenger Mary Burke.

The latest campaign finance report filed today showed Walker with a cash balance of about $4.6 million on December 31st. Mary Burke’s campaign reported a cash balance of $1.3 million. Walker reported raising more than $5 million in the second half of last year to Burke’s $1.8 million.

It’s not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison, since Burke only got into the race in October. Marquette Pollster Charles Franklin says how much she raises in the first half of this year will be more telling.

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“However, I think the handwriting is surely on the wall: that an incumbent governor has a huge advantage in fund raising under any circumstances,” Franklin said, “and it would be very surprising if Walker was not able to out raise her by a fair amount over the year.”

To put these numbers in some context, Walker had less than half as much cash on hand at this point in his 2010 campaign and Democratic challenger Tom Barrett was just a few hundred thousand dollars behind him. Barrett also had much higher name recognition than Burke.

But Franklin says a more apt comparison would be Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, a complete political unknown until the summer of 2010, who was able to unseat Democrat Russ Feingold.

“It just shows that being unknown months before the election doesn’t carry with it any kind of doubt about being a competitive candidate,” Franklin said. “We’ve seen plenty of examples of that.”

These fund raising totals only reflect part of what will be spent on the race for governor this year. Outside groups could end up outspending the candidates.