MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Democratic candidate for Wisconsin governor Mary Burke said Friday she had severed ties with a consultant she blames for copying several sections of her jobs plan from platforms of other Democrats.
Burke has built her campaign around her jobs plan, which she is offering as an alternative to Republican Gov. Scott Walker's approach. One of her key arguments is Walker doesn't deserve re-election because he has failed to live up to his promise to create 250,000 private-sector jobs and Wisconsin is lagging other states in adding workers.
FILE - In this July 24, 2014 file photo Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke attends the Rock County 4-H Fair in Janesville, Wis. Burke is one of two women are running for Wisconsin’s most powerful offices on a major party ticket for the first time in state history. (AP Photo/Andy Manis, File)
Burke, in an interview with The Associated Press, said it was her decision to end the campaign's relationship with consultant Eric Schnurer of the Pennsylvania-based consulting firm Public Works, who provided the material in question.
"He should not have used the exact language that he used in other plans," Burke said.
Walker and other Republicans accused Burke of plagiarizing the material.
"It's a sad day for Wisconsin when the Democratic nominee for governor misleads voters by offering a plagiarized jobs plan, in which she has staked her entire candidacy," Walker campaign manager Stephan Thompson said in a written statement. "Wisconsin deserves better, and it's clear that Mary Burke cannot be trusted to lead our state."
Burke said she had been clear when she introduced the plan in March that it included the best ideas from experts around the country about how to create jobs and spur economic development. She said that same approach was taken at Trek Bicycles, the company founded in Wisconsin by her father where she worked as a top executive.
She said the material in question is only a small part of the 40-page plan and should not undermine its overall credibility or the ideas presented. She said she had no plans to change it.
A message left for Schnurer at Public Works was not immediately returned on Friday morning. He also didn't immediately respond to email and Twitter messages.
Burke spokesman Joe Zepecki said the campaign didn't know of the issue until it was first reported Thursday night by the website Buzzfeed. It reported that sections of Burke's plan were identical to parts of plans by Delaware Gov. Jack Markell in 2008, Ward Cammack of Tennessee in 2009 and John Gregg of Indiana in 2012.
Burke is the second national politician this week to have to defend against claims of copied material. On Wednesday, Monica Wehby, a GOP Senate candidate in Oregon, blamed a former staff member for policy positions that matched those of two other Republicans word for word. In that case, Wehby took down the entire issues section of her website.
Michael Wagner, a journalism professor and expert on elections and political communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the Burke case doesn't fit the traditional definition of plagiarism.
"On the one hand, the consultant gave her the plan, so it's not really plagiarism because the person working for her did it," Wagner said. "That consultant, in a way, has self-plagiarized, by sharing the same words with different clients."
This is Burke's first run for statewide office and polls since May have shown the race to be nearly even.