WATCH LIVE: Wisconsin gubernatorial debate

Watch the Wisconsin gubernatorial debate at 8 p.m. EDT tonight (7 p.m. CDT), featuring incumbent Gov. Scott Walker (R) and Mary Burke (D). Wisconsin Public Television will live stream the event in the player above. Courtesy Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation. Immediately after the debate, keep the stream running to watch Wisconsin Public Television’s state politics and policy program, Here and Now, which will be live with post-debate analysis.

One of the most contentious governor’s races in the country will come to a head this evening as Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker and his Democratic challenger, Mary Burke, meet in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, for the first of two October debates.

The hour-long event will broadcast live from the Mayo Auditorium in Eau Claire at 8 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. CDT). The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association sponsors. Jill Geisler, a veteran Wisconsin broadcaster, moderates.

Third-party candidates Robert Burke (L) and Dennis Fehr (The People’s Party) will not participate, per the WBA’s criteria for inclusion.

Walker and Burke had been in a statistical dead heat since Burke, a businesswoman and former state Secretary of Commerce, won her primary in May. But most recently, a poll out of Marquette University shows the incumbent taking the lead by five percentage points.

The poll also reveals a substantial gender gap between the two candidates, with Burke holding a strong advantage among women, but Walker holding an even stronger advantage among men. Wisconsin’s political landscape is among the most polarized in the country, as PBS NewsHour’s Gwen Ifill explored in July.

That schism deepened in 2012 after Gov. Walker passed a bill ending collective bargaining for most public workers, sparking a heated recall election which he defeated.

The economic issues underpinning that emotional race remain central to this year’s campaign, and jobs programs, tax rates, the minimum wage, school funding and health care are all likely themes of tonight’s debate.

Tonight’s debate also comes on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to block the implementation of a voter ID measure that Gov. Walker had championed. That law would have required voters to present photo identification at the polls, which supporters say would help prevent electoral fraud. But the nation’s highest court said Thursday that the law was being implemented too close to the November election and that absentee ballots with no mention of the law had already been mailed.

The second and final debate between the major-party candidates will take place in the Milwaukee Public Television studios on Friday, Oct. 17, at 8 p.m. EDT (7 p.m. CDT). PBS NewsHour will also stream that event. Erin Toner of Milwaukee Public Radio will moderate.

Immediately after tonight’s debate, Wisconsin Public Television’s state politics and policy program, Here and Now, will be live with post-debate analysis. Keep the stream running to see anchor Frederica Freyberg joined on set by political scientists and representatives from Wisconsin’s Democratic and Republican Parties.