By TODD RICHMOND
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Wisconsin schools Superintendent Tony Evers went on the offensive Monday as the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination winds down, preparing to release his first television ad and announcing he’ll seek $600 million for special education in the next state budget.
Evers has emerged as the front-runner among eight Democrats vying for the chance to face Republican Gov. Scott Walker in November. Before then, though, Democratic voters will have to use the primary election scheduled for Aug. 14 to pick the one candidate they want to run on their party’s ticket.
Both Evers and Walker have been working to portray themselves as supporting schools. Evers’ new ad opens with him telling a room full of people that he’ll spend more money on children and Wisconsin workers rather than handing out a billion dollars worth of corporate incentives to companies like Foxconn Technology Group, a direct dig at Walker for signing a bill last year that gave the the Taiwanese electronics giant an unprecedented $4.5 billion worth of incentives to build a flat-screen plant in Mount Pleasant.
The ad notes that Evers is a former teacher and now superintendent, showing him smiling with children at a playground. An unseen narrator promises that Evers will spend more on public schools, schooling for young children and technical training for workers.
Evers says in the ad that a candidate with a better vision of the future than Walker’s will be able to beat Walker. The spot makes no mention of any of Evers’ Democratic rivals for the nomination.
The 30-second spot is scheduled to begin running statewide on Tuesday. Maggie Gaue, Evers’ campaign manager, didn’t immediately reply to an email asking how much the ad campaign is costing.
Earlier on Monday, Evers announced that, if elected, he’d use the next state budget to seek $969 million for special education. If that amount would be approved, it would be 163 percent from the $369 million set aside for that purpose in the current budget.
Austin Altenburg, a spokesman for Walker, said in an email to The Associated Press that Walker used the current budget to fully fund the state Department of Public Instruction’s request for $7.6 million worth special-education grants and put about $200 more per student in each year of the current biennial budget. Even Evers himself called the spending plan a “pro-kid budget” last February, Altenburg noted.
Altenburg referred a request for comment on Evers’ ad to a spokesman for the Republican Party of Wisconsin, who accused Evers of imitating Walker’s school policies.
“Scott Walker has already accomplished what Evers is talking about and more,” Zimmerman said.