Scott Walker at the Governor's Mansion

Gov. Scott Walker talks with Wisconsin State Journal reporters at the executive residence in Maple Bluff.

M.P. KING — State Journal

Gov. Scott Walker on Tuesday gave the strongest indication yet that he will seek a second term in office, and lobbed criticism directly at his only challenger so far.

“I’ll announce in the spring,” Walker said in an interview with the State Journal. “But I don’t see any circumstance where I don’t run.”

Asked about Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke, Walker called her experience as a former Trek Bicycle executive and state Commerce secretary a “double-edged sword.”

“There are some questions even about Trek and whether or not jobs were sent overseas,” Walker said. “And then as secretary of Commerce under Jim Doyle … those policies when she was part of the administration saw the state losing 133,000 jobs.”

On Tuesday, Walker also knocked Burke’s statement that she wouldn’t make any promises in the campaign.

“We’re going to make big, bold promises about the future and the reason that people can take those to the bank is we made big, bold promises in the past and time and time again we’ve either completely fulfilled them or we’ve shown we’ve done everything in our power to fulfill them,” Walker said. “I think that will be a stark contrast because at least one of the candidates has promised that she won’t make any promises, and so I think if someone’s hiring someone, who do you want to hire?”

Burke campaign spokesman Joe Zepecki called Walker’s attacks “a predictable smoke screen.”

“Walker’s policies have pulled Wisconsin down — sixth from the bottom in job growth prospects, second from the bottom in new businesses created, dead last in short-term job growth,” Zepecki said. “The choice in next year’s election is clear: Mary Burke is the only candidate for governor who has created jobs and balanced budgets in the private sector. Scott Walker has failed to deliver the jobs he promised Wisconsin families by putting politics ahead of problem-solving.”

Walker wouldn’t disclose details of his promises, saying those would come out after his campaign launch. His signature promise of his first campaign — to create 250,000 jobs by 2015 — is so far unfulfilled.

Charles Franklin, a Marquette University Law School professor, said Walker’s comments mark “the beginning of a direct engagement with (Burke).”

The first-term Republican governor called speculation from some Democrats that he might not seek re-election “ridiculous.”

“I think it’s wishful thinking on their part,” he said.

Walker distanced himself from talk that he might run for president in 2016 — rumors that flared up again last month with the release of his book, “Unintimidated: A Governor’s Story and a Nation’s Challenge.”

Walker said he would need to talk over the idea of a presidential bid with his family as well as think about the broader “impact on the state.”

“I hear this a lot from folks, including a lot of people who are pretty stalwart supporters of mine, who say, ‘I love you, but please don’t go ... ,’ ” Walker said.

He added, “It would be nice to have the opportunity to have a full term without distractions, without interruptions, because that’s really what the recall was. As much as we stayed focused on being governor throughout that, it was a huge distraction not just for me and the Legislature but for the state as a whole.”

But state Rep. Sandy Pasch, D-Shorewood, said Walker had been “side-tracked by donors and special interests.”

Pasch said Walker has been “pandering to the extreme right,” adding that he failed to keep his promises, such as the 250,000 jobs pledge and making sure people don’t fall through the cracks when it comes to health care coverage.

Walker also said he knew very little about a secret “John Doe” investigation that is reportedly targeting his campaign and others’, the Republican Party of Wisconsin and more than two dozen conservative political groups.

“I don’t know. I don’t really know enough to know what all they’re doing,” Walker said. “There was a little flurry of attention early on and I don’t know where we’re at now.”

During a previous John Doe investigation that resulted in criminal charges against six Walker associates, Walker said he was confident he was not the target.

Walker also said that if the Legislature doesn’t pass a private voucher school accountability bill this session he will introduce a measure either during the next budget or as standalone legislation in the next session.

He also said he looked forward to signing mental health system reforms that have passed the Assembly but await Senate approval.

But otherwise, he didn’t identify specific bills he would like to see passed in a spring session.

“By and large much of what we’ve wanted to get accomplished we’ve been successful in doing,” he said.

Contact Mary Spicuzza at mscpicuzza@madison.com or 608-252-6122. Contact Matthew DeFour at mdefour@madison.com or 608-252-6144.

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State Government Reporter for Wisconsin State Journal

Matthew DeFour covers state government and politics for the Wisconsin State Journal.