David vs. Goliath: Fort Atkinson woman takes on Sen. Scott Fitzgerald with independent recall effort
Post by Emily Mills on 11/17/2011 11:05am
Lori Compas never planned to become a one-woman political committee. A freelance photographer and writer originally from St. Louis but now a resident of Fort Atkinson, Compas is active in her community: A member of the Garden Club, the Arts Council, and board member at her children’s school. But during the height of the protests at the Capitol last winter, as people began calling for the recall of the governor and several state legislators, Compas decided that her own senator needed to be one of them.
Sen. Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) has served District 13 – an area encompassing Dodge, Jefferson, and a small corner of Dane County – for 17 years. He was elected Senate Majority Leader for the 2011-2012 session and has since been instrumental in pushing Gov. Scott Walker’s agenda.
On March 9 of this year, Fitzgerald was central to a joint committee meeting and vote held in seeming violation of the state’s open records law that allowed the Senate to then vote on the so-called budget “repair” bill without its Democratic members present.
It was the moment when Compas knew her senator had gone too far. “I remember posting a message to Twitter that said something like, ‘I will recall Scott Fitzgerald if I have to crawl on hands and knees through the snow to collect the signatures,’” notes Compas wryly. But, she adds, she expected to just be a person with a clipboard, not the one organizing the entire effort.
In addition to its campaigns against Gov. Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin decided to focus its efforts on those senators it thought were most vulnerable: Sens. Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls, Van Wanggaard of Racine, and Pam Galloway of Wausau. They aren’t providing any financial or logistical support to the Fitzgerald recall.
“I decided last Friday that I would do this,” Compas explains. “I realized that if I didn’t do it, it wasn’t gonna happen.” However, she admits, “I feel like I’m this little ant flinging a crumb at a giant.”
Compass called up the Government Accountability Board to ask how it could be done. After filling out all of the necessary paperwork, she went to the GAB offices on Tuesday and filed as the one-woman Committee to Recall Scott Fitzgerald and the race was on.
Since then, Compas says, “It’s been beautiful. I can’t believe the response.”
Interest in the petitions has been so immense that an initial run of copies she’d thought would last until Thanksgiving has already run out. People heading out to collect signatures for the Walker and Kleefisch recalls have been overwhelmingly supportive of adding the Fitzgerald petition to the bunch.
And in the relatively conservative District 13 people of all political stripes are showing interest in the campaign.
“Something has really changed in the last year,” Compas says of Fitzgerald’s time in office. She sees the main reason to recall the senator having less to do with ideology and more to do with methodology. “The important thing is not what he’s done, but how he’s done it,” Compas adds, referring to the March 9 incident and much of what’s happened since. She believes that the folks in the district have largely lost faith in Fitzgerald because of those issues.
Of course, undertaking the collection of 17,000 signatures (though she hopes to get 19,000 to 20,000 to ensure she has enough that are valid) without help wouldn’t exactly be a cakewalk. Compas has quickly realized that she’ll need to bring more people on board to organize the drive, and raise more money.
“I initially checked the box on the form indicating that I wouldn’t raise more than $1,000, which I realize now was naïve,” she admits. The GAB has informed her that she can change that at any time, and Compas hopes to start raising money to help with logistics and getting the word out. The internet, however, has proven to be a major boon in spreading the news in a district that’s very rural and very spread out.
Compas has set up a website at recallfitz.wordpress.com where people can read about the recall effort and download the petition to sign and have others sign as well.
She’s since gotten the help of Kevin Köpplin, who was in Watertown yesterday collecting signatures, and others have expressed interest in assisting as well.
"Regardless of what you think about collective bargaining and all the other issues, I think all of us realize, if you are going to live in a civilized society, everybody needs to follow the rules, especially the people who have been entrusted to represent us," Compas said in an interview with the Fort Atkinson-based Daily Union.
She’s confident that the people in her district want a representative in government who will follow the rules and do what’s in their best interests. “People in Dodge and Jefferson County are smarter than I think a lot of folks give us credit for,” Compas asserts.
Emily Mills is Editor-At-Large for Dane101, as well as Editor of Our Lives Magazine. She is also a freelance writer, photographer, actor, and musician (drummer and singer in local band Little Red Wolf). Originally from several states up and down the Midwest Emily has called Madison home since 2000. Contact her at