Democrat Mary Burke says she won’t run for statewide office again.
“I ran for governor because I wanted to be governor, but also because it was really a call to duty,” she said. “I mean, there was not anyone stepping up to do this who could really mount the type of campaign to win. And that’s what drove me to do it.”
Burke spoke with reporters Monday for the first time since losing the governor’s race against Republican Gov. Scott Walker.
Burke said she has ruled out running for U.S. Senate in 2016, and doesn’t want to make another gubernatorial run — or any other statewide campaign.
“I think I don’t really fit the mold of most people who run for governor,” she said. “So, no, I would have loved to be governor, but I really think that in four more years, the party will have some really good candidates, and I will certainly support them in that run.”
Burke, a Madison School Board member and former Trek Bicycle executive, said she plans to decide in the next month whether she will run again for her School Board seat. She said she would likely seek re-election, barring other opportunities that arise.
She also said she plans to remain active with the AVID/TOPS program, a Boys & Girls Club initiative that she helped to found that focuses on preparing low-income students for college.
“I try to make a difference in my community, and in the best ways that I’m needed,” Burke said.
Polls mostly showed Walker and Burke locked in a tight race in the months leading up to Tuesday’s election, but she lost to Walker by nearly 6 percentage points.
Burke said she “actually really enjoyed campaigning,” despite “getting dragged through the mud” by her opponents.
Critics accused her of copying campaign materials after parts of her jobs plan and other proposals included segments that were identical to those other Democratic candidates. And just days before the election, a pair of former Trek employees with conservative ties alleged that she had been fired from her family’s company, which was founded by her father.
She and Trek denied the firing allegations, and she blamed the copied passages on a consultant who worked for several Democratic candidates and cut ties with him.
“It’s unfortunate that it becomes so negative, and such personal attacks. I’m sure it deters others from doing it,” she said. “And that’s too bad. It doesn’t need to be that way.”
She added that incumbents overwhelmingly win re-election, but said that she thought turnout might have been high enough to carry her to a victory.
“I didn’t know until the results were coming in,” she said. “I thought I had a good chance, because turnout could definitely have changed it.”
Burke said that, looking across the country, there was a Republican wave that many people didn’t expect. But she added that the attacks against her in the final weeks of the campaign likely didn’t help her.
Burke also said she doesn’t regret spending $5 million of her own money on the race, adding it was what was needed to be competitive.
When asked if she expected to get any of her money back, she joked about how popular she is in Madison these days.
“People are buying me drinks every time I go out, but it’s going to take a lot of free drinks to get up to $5 million,” Burke joked. “It’s good going out with me in Madison. You basically can count on a round of drinks wherever I go. Not that I’m spending all my time drinking.”
Burke added that she doesn’t consider herself to be a political person.
“I really like policy, but I’m not an overly political person,” she said.
As for the School Board run, she said she’s “strongly leaning” toward running for re-election in April.
“I just want to make sure that something doesn’t come up in exploring my options that somehow precludes me from being able to make the type of commitment that’s necessary for School Board,” Burke said. “But if I had to decide today, I’d run for School Board.”
Madison Teachers Inc. executive director John Matthews, who disparaged Burke as a “one-percenter” when she first ran for School Board, said on election night that if she runs for re-election he expects the teachers union would support her this time around.
“She’s been a very good School Board member,” he said.
State Journal reporter Matthew DeFour contributed to this report.