The Democrats’ Recall Forum @ UW-Whitewater (Compas and Jorgensen edition)

I wrote yesterday about the Democrats’ recall forum, focusing on the candidates for governor and lieutenant governor. (See, The Democrats’ Recall Forum @ UW-Whitewater. )

Below is a summary of two other candidates’ presentations: Lori Compas, running in the 13th Senate District against Sen. Maj. Leader Scott Fitzgerald, and Rep. Andy Jorgensen, now representing the 37th Assembly District, but running this fall against Rep. Evan Wynn in the 43rd District.

(A representative for Congressional candidate Rob Zerban also spoke, but I’ll confine my remarks to Compas and Jorgensen.)

Lori Compas.

I’ve written about Compas previously, including her attendance at an open-office session that Sen. Fitzgerald held.

On this evening, she began speaking before the college-hall audience by mentioning that she’d earlier had dinner with some students, and that her husband is a professor at the university.

Compas is, I think, in her early forties, but she seems younger than that (as Fitzgerald, conversely, seems older than his real age).

She read from prepared remarks, rather than extemporaneously, but spoke well and easily. Her remarks were obviously her own, and Compas read them with a familiarity that made looking at them necsssary only briefly.

In this way, she would step back from the lectern, and then occasionally move toward it, in a kind of gavotte. I’d never coach someone to do this, but it was surprisingly innocuous, and almost effective.

She’s smart, but here’s her great strength: she’s evidently and manifestly sincere. If one comes away with a single impression, it’s that she means what she says. That doesn’t make her right, but it does make her politically effective.

When Americans watch Frank Capra films, or enjoy Norman Rockwell depictions of our civic life, it’s not simply because they like that art: it’s because Americans deeply admire what lies beneath, in our sincere hopes for a good and simple politics. I well-understand that the clever and sophisticated shun films and art like this, but the loss of understanding is theirs. Americans are, as H.L.A. Hart once described us, noble dreamers.

I’m sure Fitzgerald resents her candidacy, her imposition on his time, his moment, his influence. She must seem something between impertinent and alien to him. That’s part funny, part sad, because from this conclusion one may say that Fitzgerald cannot recognize his own people, his fellow Wisconsinites and fellow Americans. They are no Other; they are his neighors.

From the video to which I’ve linked above, one can see that he’s uncomfortable in her presence.

On principle, Fitzgerald should debate Compas at least once. Tactically, he should stay as far away from her as possible, and speak of her only in a matter-of-fact and level way, lest he say something boorish.

She, on the other hand, need only get close in the polls, and then rattle him. She’ll not have to say anthing other than what she’s saying now; it’s simply that anything she says must seem provocative to Fitzgerald.

To debate the challenger would be to elevate her candidacy, and that Fitzgerald will not wish to do. Ideally, any debate should be a simple matter, two people across a small table, with perhaps a moderator seated there, too. No need to stand up, or give formal speeches — just a back-and-forth. (As in a 2010 debate between Walker and Barrett.)

And yet, and yet, why not debate Compas this way? My own disagreements with her would be different from his, surely, but is the 13th District not owed that debate, or those debates? I think so.

From a debater’s point of view, it’s not winning or losing, it’s just setting forth the best case one can, there and then. Afterward, one goes on, adjusts where needed, but recognizing that there will be other debates, other contests. It’s not as though Compas and her supporters don’t live in the district, or will be moving away – they’ll be there, one way or another, on Wednesday, June 6th.

They’re worth acknowledging and engaging, simply as residents, before and after the election.

Andy Jorgensen.

Rep. Andy Jorgensen now represents the 37th Assembly District, and lives in Fort Atkinson. Redistricting took that district apart, and he will challenge Rep. Wynn of the 43rd in the fall.

Jorgensen will be running against a freshman Republican of uncertain strength within the 43rd. Although the district has been re-configured from the 2010 race, Evan Wynn won in a very red year, and it’s unclear how rooted he’s become within the politics of the area. I’d guess not well.

Jorgensen spoke to the forum in a three-button suit, and delivered good, but rushed, remarks. He has a solid speaking voice, but spoke too quickly. (He was probably unaware of the time limit for speakers; it would have helped to be clear in advance.)

He’s likely to debate Wynn along a table, at a candidates’ forum, but that’s not to Jorgensen’s best advantage – he’d be at his best at an open-air forum between the candidates. Wynn’s a mostly phlegmatic, monotone speaker: he’s better suited to a subdued atmosphere.

Jorgensen’s points were interesting, as he hit Wynn on some issues (including signing a confidentiality agreement on redistricting) that local papers have allowed signatories to excuse away. There’s Jorgensen’s challenge: the press will be of no assistance to him. He’ll be on his own.

[Update, 5.1.12: The confidentiality agreement that Wynn foolishly signed was subsequently made public by court order. Looking at it, every so often, one is reminded how unsuited for public office a candidate may turn out to be, sunny campaign promises notwithstanding.]

The 37th’s incumbent will have to speak more slowly, directly, and concisely – and raise questions of Wynn’s record and suitablity for the 43rd.

This race, based on the history of the old district, the composition of the new one, and the expected turnout in November, will be one of the most competitive in the state.

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