It’s hard not to wonder if Lori Compas is for real – and if she is, will she stay that way if she succeeds in knocking out State Sen. Scott Fitzgerald or will she succumb to the very political special interests and shady politics she laments.
I suspect Lori Compas is for real and Wisconsin needs more of her ilk right now.
Politically inactive in the past, Compas, a Fort Atkinson mom and photographer, was outraged over her state senator’s conduct during the early days of the Walker administration’s efforts to strip most public employees of most collective bargaining rights. March 9, 2011 was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
That’s when Fitzgerald ignored the Open Meetings Law and posted notices on a bulletin board in the state capitol of a committee meeting on the controversial legislation less than two hours before it was scheduled to convene.
"I think a lot of people remember the outrage that they would break the law and Scott Fitzgerald himself would break the law," Compas said. "He broke the Open Meetings Law. When you break the law as Senate majority leader while acting in your official capacity, you've got to answer for that."
“I feel like he’s changed over the past years” she said. “He’s done things that really have divided the people of our state and polarized state government.”
Compas said that during the times of the protest, she saw actions by Fitzgerald that prompted her to promise herself to work for his recall. She originally was optimistic that someone else would file a petition for recalling the local senator.
Nobody else did. The state Democratic party was busy with other recalls. So political neophyte Compas took on the challenge and organized gathering far more than the 16,472 signatures needed to force Fitzgerald to face his voters next month.
With Scott Fitzgerald’s recall on the ballot it was déjà vu all over again. Who would run against him?
Again, nobody was chomping at the bit to become the Democrats’ sacrificial lamb. Compas somewhat reluctantly got into the race and put her newly acquired organizational skills to the test of getting enough signatures to get herself on the ballot. She did.
Instead of using the warmed-over Democratic mantras Compas held listening sessions across the district to formulate her platform. It blends main street pragmatism with moderate concerns and had the audacity to knock both the Walker and Doyle administrations for using gimmicks to address the state’s fiscal woes.
“I’m a small business owner who’s committed to job creation, education,
and open, honest government,” Compas said.
“No matter where we stand on the issues, we can all agree that our values — traditional Wisconsin values — include honesty, compassion, hard work and fairness,” she added.
In our modern day cynicism it’s difficult to believe this is for real. Madison politicians of all stripes excel at making it appear to their constituents that they really care while the end results are usually predetermined behind closed doors. Special interest dollars rule.
But giving her the benefit of the doubt we can only hope that she is for real and pray that more Davids are willing to take on the Goliaths, an increasingly impossible task. Lori Compas was in grade school the last time that was pulled off.
In 1978 outsider Lee Dreyfus ran a populist campaign and wrestled the Republican nomination for governor away from the anointed party favorite. He then rode his mantra of “Who runs this state – people or money?” to a victory in the general election, forbidding large donations in the process.
Wisconsin hasn’t seen populist politics since then which makes Compas’ candidacy interesting and refreshing. She may not win the election but her willingness to defy the odds will hopefully inspire other newcomers to work to take back our state from the corrupt special interests.