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Saturday, October 25, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 56.0° F  Fair
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Wisconsin Senate recall candidate Lori Compas reflects on her race against Scott Fitzgerald
Lori Compas on Sen. Scott Fitzgerald: 'He campaigned on one thing and did another.'
Lori Compas on Sen. Scott Fitzgerald: 'He campaigned on one thing and did another.'

This is the race that has captured the imagination of many progressives in Wisconsin. Lori Compas, a political novice, got so fed up with the right-wing agenda and the ruthless style of Scott Walker and Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald that she took it upon herself to gather the 16,742 signatures necessary to force him into a recall. And then, when no one would run against him, she decided to do it herself, with precious little support from the Democratic Party.

Friday afternoon at the Café Carpe in downtown Fort Atkinson, Compas is upbeat.

"I'm picking up steam," she says. "I feel great. I love it."

She says the tough part is over. "It was hard when I was doing everything," she says. "Now it's just pure talking to people, and I get my energy from people."

She has a paid staff of two and is gratified by the dozens of volunteers who help out, including a volunteer fundraiser and an accountant and the people who staff her four campaign offices.

"The volunteers have been incredible," she says.

This is all new to her.

"I liked to gripe about politics," she says, "but I never thought I could make a difference before."

March 9, 2011, was the day she decided to take the plunge. That was the day that Fitzgerald and the Republicans in the state legislature rammed through the vote to crush collective bargaining and they did so by violating the open meetings law, she says.

"I watched the video that night and I just cried," she says. "I thought he is absolutely out of control and is trampling on our democracy. That was the moment I vowed to work on his recall."

She cites his sneakiness as another reason for challenging him.

"He campaigned on one thing and did another," she says, adding that he hasn't represented his constituents.

"We didn't ask him to roll back women's rights, but he did," she says. "We didn't ask him to roll back voting rights, but he did. We didn't ask him to roll back workers' rights, but he did."

Her explanation: "His power went to his head."

Now, she says, Fitzgerald is running scared, and she believes she can win.

"Maybe I'm crazy, but I do," she says.

Compas, who got a journalism degree from the University of Missouri in Columbia, worked as a newspaper photographer in Montana. And then, after she got married and had two children and eventually moved to Fort Atkinson, she opened up a business as a wedding photographer.

Last weekend, she actually took a day off from the campaign trail to photograph a local wedding.

"It felt so good to have a camera in my hand again," she said, "and to step back and get a little perspective."

The wedding couple, she added, already voted for her by absentee ballot.

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