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Sunday, December 28, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 31.0° F  A Few Clouds
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Lori Compas, defeated by Scott Fitzgerald, faults big money, Dem messaging
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Compas: 'We've developed a grassroots network that will persevere.'
Compas: 'We've developed a grassroots network that will persevere.'

Lori Compas always knew her chances of unseating Scott Fitzgerald -- the Republican state Senate majority leader who has been one of Gov. Scott Walker's biggest allies -- were slim.

But she was nonetheless disappointed by her loss in Tuesday's recall election.

"From the very beginning, this was an experiment. The experiment was about seeing if we could overcome money with people power," Compas says of her run in District 13. "Obviously, we couldn't."

Fitzgerald cruised to victory with just over 58% of the vote.

For Compas, the significance is clear: "We need to get money out of politics." She raised about $200,000 in her bid to unseat Fitzgerald, who had almost $800,000.

"I don't think the solution is to try to raise more money on our side," she adds. "Do we want people to be influenced by propaganda or by debates, in-depth articles and actual information? The majority of our population is informed by advertising."

Compas also faulted the Democratic Party for being bad at getting its message across. "Republicans are very good at looking at an issue and coming up with a quick, short thing -- true or not -- and repeating it. 'It's working.' How many times have we heard that? Their messaging strategy works very well."

But Compas said there was more laughter than tears at her election party Tuesday night. "We've developed a grassroots network that will persevere," she says. "We're already talking about having Friday night fish fries, where we figure out what we need to do next."

Nor was the day all sunshine and roses for Fitzgerald -- his party appears to have lost control of the Senate. On Wednesday, Democratic challenger John Lehman was clinging to a lead of just under 800 votes over Republican incumbent Van Wanggaard in Racine.

If the lead holds, Democrats take control of the Senate. And Fitzgerald, though he will retain his seat, will no longer be majority leader.

Fitzgerald's office did not respond to a request for comment. But he told the Watertown Daily Times his victory was a result of the Republican reforms.

"Our message was that the reforms that we put in place were working. If this recall was about reforms, then let's talk about the reforms. Lori Compas and others kept using message after message to find something that hit, and that is why we had such good success last night."

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