Looking ahead to 2014, who will face Scott Walker in race for Gov.?
MADISON (WITI) -- The 2014 election for governor is more than 16 months away, but it's already underway! Who will the Democrats choose to run against Scott Walker, and how will the choice be made? Those are the questions the political parties are debating, as the election looms.
"There are several names that have been floated and I'm sure one of them -- or more -- will announce," Democratic Party Spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff said.
Among them are familiar leaders like Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, Senate Majority Leader Chris Larson, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca and state Firefighter's Union President Mahlon Mitchell.
But could it be a political newcomer?
Democrats have been poll testing former Trek Bicycle Executive Mary Burke.
The Harvard MBA was also the state's former Commerce Secretary and is a current Madison School Board member.
"Mary Burke is a liberal Madison activist who has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting Democrats and now she's preparing to spend millions of dollars attacking Scott Walker," Joe Fadness, the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Republican Party said.
Fadness says the secret poll shows a split between the party leaders and the base.
"I think the dysfunction of the Democrats is coming to light right now where you have these party bosses who are behind closed doors handpicking Scott Walker's opponent. Meanwhile you have the base on the ground saying hold on, let's talk about this," Fadness said.
"I think it's funny that a party that has a voter ID bill that is unconstitutional, and has an unconstitutional gerrymander that a federal court said likely committed fraud is talking about undemocratic policies. Right now we're going to focus 100 percent on engaging our supporters all across Wisconsin," Baldauff said.
Democrats are intrigued by Burke's experience in business, government and philanthropy, and the contrast a woman would bring to the ticket.
Baldauff says a candidate will emerge soon. She says with the state's sluggish jobs numbers, Republicans are looking to change the conversation.
"They don't have anything good to say about Scott Walker's record. They can't talk about his record of success on jobs, healthcare, womens' issues," Baldauff said.
"When they controlled state government, the place was a mess. With Scott Walker's leadership, we've turned it around. We've balanced the budget. We've cut taxes for the middle class, and invested in education," Fadness said.
Democrats and Republicans are attempting to reach out to and register the 800,000 eligible adults who are not currently registered to vote in the state -- believing in a closely divided state that untapped block could hold the key to victory in 2014.