In the race for governor, there's no mistaking which horse the highway interests are putting their money on.
In the past five years, Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker has raised more than $35,000 in campaign contributions from individuals in the road building industry, according to a review of campaign finance records by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
Over that same period, road builders contributed $1,100 to Walker's Republican opponent, former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann, and $200 to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a Democrat.
In February, Walker came under criticism when he hitched a ride to the Wisconsin Transportation Builders Association convention in Orlando, Fla., on a plane owned — and flown — by real estate developer Ron Fedler of Goldleaf Development.
Walker has said his campaign reimbursed the cost of the flight to Fedler, who has given Walker $8,500 in campaign contributions in the past five years.
Walker said there's nothing wrong with his relationship with road builders. He said they support his plans, such as his proposal to create 250,000 jobs in Wisconsin by 2015, which relies on lower taxes for employers and building the state's infrastructure.
"They've all tried," he said of his opponents. "Both Tom Barrett and Mark Neumann have all asked the support of the same people who are supporting me."
Neumann said road builders are really drawn to what he called Walker's record of spending while in his county office.
"When they think about more spending and more money, that's probably what they're looking for," Neumann said. "And I guess they figure they're going to get that with Scott Walker."
Barrett said Walker's popularity among road builders is a case of believing rhetoric over reality. If road builders looked at Barrett's record, he said, they would see he has dedicated an average $7.7 million to road projects since 2005, a nearly two-thirds annual increase since before he took office as mayor.