The Capitol erupted Thursday when protesters spread the news the 14 senators were not present during the Senate session’s roll call. For the next 23 days, they traveled throughout northern Illinois, intent on stalling the bill.
Those who supported the senators called them the “Fab 14.” But Walker supporters called them irresponsible for leaving the state and saw their actions as reprehensible enough they deserved to be recalled.
At a press conference, Walker said the Senate could not move forward unless the senators came to session.
“They get paid to come to work and they should be coming to work,” Walker said. “We’re responsible of voting on behalf of our constituents. You can’t do that if you’re hiding out in some other state.”
Walker’s administration sent Wisconsin State Patrol to senators’ houses to ask their families of their whereabouts.
Although they spread across northern Illinois, they met each day to decide if they should return.
Risser said even though the senators argued about their exit strategy, staying together was a major accomplishment.
“Fourteen egos, of such varied personalities … were able to stick together for three weeks,” Risser said. “You don’t have that happen very often.”
While Risser acknowledged his district supported him in Illinois, not all districts fully supported their senators. State Sen. Tim Cullen, D-Janesville, noted more than half of his district was against him going to Illinois.
“It was harshly, sharply divided. There didn’t seem to be anybody undecided about it,” Cullen said.
He said he sometimes advocated returning sooner because he thought they already made their point.
“There was real logic in going down there for 10 days at least. The state did wake up.” Cullen said.
But he said they could not fuel the movement from outside Wisconsin.
“If 14 people stay in Illinois forever then it’s not really a real movement. It needed to have its own energy behind us being here,” Cullen said.
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