MADISON, Wis. — Democratic candidate for governor Tony Evers said Thursday he raised $1 million since his primary win nine days ago, nearly double what he brought in over the entire first six months of the year as he tries to deny Republican Gov. Scott Walker a third term.
Many Democratic donors sat out the eight-person primary that Evers won on Aug. 14. But now they are opening their wallets to help Evers, who entered August with just $158,000 cash on hand compared with $4.8 million for Walker.
That cash advantage has helped Walker and his allies blanket the airwaves with ads, spending more than twice as much as Evers and Democrats since the primary. Both sides launched a pair of new attack ads Thursday.
A Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday shows the race at a dead heat.
In the week since Evers' primary win, the race has largely focused on two themes: whether Evers, as state superintendent, failed to act aggressively enough in cases involving teacher misconduct and whether Walker has done enough in the past eight years to improve the quality of Wisconsin's roads, education and health care costs.
Walker has been content so far to let the state party attack Evers while Walker runs more than $2 million worth of positive ads. In April, after the conservative-backed candidate lost the state Supreme Court race, Walker urged his supporters to stay positive.
"The Far Left is driven by anger & hatred — we must counter it with optimism & organization," Walker tweeted then. "Let's share our positive story with voters & win in November."
Walker on Thursday defended his recent attacks on Evers.
"Elections are about vision for the future. But they are also about record," he tweeted . "Discussing Tony Evers' troubling record of not revoking the licenses of fired teachers with questionable backgrounds is a legitimate issue. And an epic fail."
The latest Wisconsin Republican Party ad references three teacher discipline cases. One involves a female Beloit Turner High School teacher accused of sending sexually explicit Snapchat messages to a male student.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports the case is complex. An attorney for the state Department of Public Instruction, which Evers oversees, initially said there was "substantial reason" to find the teacher had engaged in "immoral conduct."
But none of the Snapchat messages in question could be recovered and the student declined to testify against the teacher. Town of Beloit police dismissed the case due to lack of evidence. After the case closed, the teacher worked for a year in Janesville but has since left the profession.
The former teacher, Dayleen Yoerger, told the Journal Sentinel that her case was being used as a weapon in the governor's race and it's not fair.
Yoerger, who was 23 at the time of the incident and is now a stay-at-home mother, called the allegations against her "absolutely false."
Republican Party spokesman Alec Zimmerman was unmoved.
"Faced with an overwhelming amount of evidence that these individuals were unfit to be in a classroom with students, Evers still abandoned our children and allowed them to remain licensed teachers," Zimmerman said.
Evers' campaign manager, Maggie Gau, called the ad "disgusting and dishonest."
"Since he cannot run on his own failed record, Walker and his special interest allies will do everything in their power to distract from his eight years of abandoning our kids, our roads, and our public safety," she said.
A new spot announced Thursday from A Stronger Wisconsin, which is aligned with the Democratic Governors Association, accused Walker of failing to address teacher shortages, rising health care costs and deteriorating roads the past eight years and "he's not changing now."