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For Larson, a Chaotic, High-Profile and Polarizing Start to Term

Chris Larson has only been on the job for two-plus months, but his brief tenure has been rife with controversy and publicity.

Chris Larson laughed when I asked him if he ever thought the start of his first term as state senator would be this eventful.

"Yes, I had it all planned out," he says. "Every step of the way."

I spoke with Larson on Tuesday, just three days after he and 13 other Wisconsin Democratic state senators returned from a three-week hiatus in Illinois.

The last time we talked . There was no way of knowing it, but just hours after that conversation, Larson and his Democratic colleagues would gather together and make a decision that will go down in the history of Wisconsin politics:

They would leave the next day for Illinois in an attempt to block passage of Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair bill.

There were, in perhaps the understatement of the century, a few things that went down in between our phone calls. 

No regrets

Larson recalled that Feb. 16 evening, saying none of the 14 senators had any clue they would be gone for that long. 

"I think if our leader, Mark Miller, if he would have told us from the beginning we would have been gone for three weeks ... we would have thought he was mad," he said.

You know what happened next. Wisconsin was thrust into the national spotlight, the bill would eventually pass without the Democrats present, and senators on both sides of the aisle are now facing recalls. 

Larson is unapologetic for leaving. The group of legislators successfully slowed down Walker's bill from advancing in the state Legislature, got more people than ever participating in democracy and "woke up a sleeping middle class," he said.

Their journey southward also divided the state. And Oak Creek.

While Larson lives in generally-liberal Bay View, and his district stretches north to more Democratic-leaning parts of Milwaukee County, he also represents conservative Oak Creek. 

The divisiveness of the issue clearly showed on this website. Several commentators on this site ripped Larson, calling him "" and "." He also had his supporters - by people who wanted to show support for Larson and the other Democrats. 

Larson said he still feels that based on the thousands of emails and hundreds of phone calls to his office, a majority of people opposed Walker's bill.

When asked to respond to those who criticized him, Larson stood by leaving the state because, he said, the law would have otherwise passed without anyone realizing everything that was in it.

Rising profile

Larson is no stranger to media attention, having first made waves last fall by successfully challenging an incumbent in his own party, Jeff Plale.

But that was nothing compared to the bright spotlight he has been under the last four weeks. And throughout the time he and the "Wisconsin 14" were in Illinois, the profile of Oak Creek's state senator grew considerably.

Media outlets, both local and national, never seemed to have trouble tracking him down; Larson, for his part, never seemed wont to turn down an opportunity to deliver the Democrats' message.

He attributed his accessibility to being one of the younger senators (he's 30), which meant he was frequently using Twitter and Facebook. He was also quick to point out that in interviews, he always sought to keep the focus on what was best for Wisconsin, despite the situation exploding on the national scene.

"It was very important for us to get our message out," he said.

Interestingly, Larson may not represent Oak Creek much longer. With the release of the U.S. Census comes redistricting, and it's possible Oak Creek will not remain part of his district.

If that happened, it might normally seem like "here today, gone tomorrow." But even though he's only been on the job for two months, the amount of action that's transpired is enough to last for years.

Juniper March 16, 2011 at 01:03 PM
Kudos to Chris and the other senators who stood up for what is right for the people of Wisconsin. Their valiant efforts will go down in history.
Patriot March 16, 2011 at 01:19 PM
Kudos..........Seriously? The only message they sent was telling the youth of this Country that if you don't like or agree with someone or something just run and hide!! If I am not mistaking thats what elections are for? Its called the balance of power? We the People of Wisconsin spoke back in November and now that the Minority does not agree they run and hide!! Im sorry but had I gone AWOL from my job for a month guess what? I WOULD NOT HAVE A JOB! Just because there are a few people who feel their rights are being infringed upon we are supposed to squash the majority? GET A CLUE!!! Just anothe UNION THUG!! Not to mention now the THUGS are turning against Business. Seems more like an intimidation tactic. But pretty typical of a THUG!! GO WALKER
Patriot March 16, 2011 at 01:23 PM
Debbie.......... Not sure where your getting your facts? So your basing this off of the few thousand protestors that have marched at the capitol and the few you have seen standing on their street corners. Well trust me the other million or more that you have not seen spoke back in November. YEs like I said you have not seen and thats because they are the real heros. They went to work everyday, school or what ever there daily lives required them to do rather than standing on the corner calling in sick or ditching class. GET A CLUE!! This has nothing to do with peoples rights!! But has everything to do with MONEY and POWER!!! Its about time we have a leader who is actually taking the lead
Patriot March 16, 2011 at 01:30 PM
Senator LARSON is a disgrace to democrocy!! You cant have democrocy unless you participate. What really pisses me off is he represents my district yet he has basically had the last month off and I am still required to pay him!! Can you say UNION THUG!!
LuvOC March 16, 2011 at 02:36 PM
Its nice to know that out of his 2 months on the job, half has been spent in Illinois and now it seems that his main job is organizing rallies and recalls for his Road Buddies. When is he going to represent me? How he got his fingers in Oak Creek, I will never know. Does he know the great things that M&I and Culvers do for our charities, the community center as well as providing jobs to ALL parties. By not condemning the boycotting of these businesses who actually "allow" their employees to make donations to the party of their choice...to me he is agreeing with it. This is NOT what I want in a representative. They may have awoken a sleeping "middle class", but I think they have also woken a "Sleeping Giant" in the taxpayer and small business owners. The board meeting in Wauwatosa last night should be a lesson on A/how to conduct a civil meeting (this is aimed at you KILL THE BILL screamers) and that we do have power to influence our alderman and school boards. There is a protest against Alberta Darling tonite (my mom who is no where near her district, got a call). It is is Menom. Falls. I will be there with a sign asking if I can collectively bargain Alberta for Chris.
LuvOC March 16, 2011 at 02:38 PM
Taxation without Representation. Thats ok, Walker is working on redistricting too.
Margaret Coonan March 16, 2011 at 02:40 PM
You go DAVE! My thoughts exactly. Will be nice when the district is restructured and we get rid of Larson.
LuvOC March 16, 2011 at 02:41 PM
You know....last week at this time I was almost thinking that we should just pay higher taxes because I was sick of listening to them whine. Now, the bullying, thug tacticts that are showing up all over have energized myself and my tea party friends more than ever. I have never been this angry in my life...and Im a bitter woman. :) Thank God for radio shows like Belling that (although are crazy at times) expose us to FACTS (he always proves a statement) that the Journal and our 3 local stations are to INTIMIDATED to put on the front page.
LuvOC March 16, 2011 at 02:42 PM
I think hes a THIEF and a COWARD...is that better?
lavelle March 17, 2011 at 12:19 AM
how lucky can oak creek get!!! losing larson is like charlie sheen's defination of "WINNING" YOU CREEKERS DONT EVEN HAVE TO MOVE AND THINGS GET BETTER..UNFORTUNATELY I'M STILL STUCK WITH "THE SNAKE" AND BARRETT, AND GWEN MOORE,ETC....
lavelle March 17, 2011 at 12:20 AM
larson is also a petty thief!!
Margaret Redmond March 17, 2011 at 03:58 AM
Thank you Senator Larson for your courage in standing up for freedom and democracy. The budget adjustment bill contains many issues that most people are unaware of such as Badgercare, Medicaid, power plants, tax-payer vouchers for private schooling, recycling, parks, and more serious issues which people need to be aware of. It is not solely about the union busting issue, but it certainly is being represented that way. While the working middle class is arguing over union issues, they are neglecting other very important issues encompassed in this sweeping bill. Again, thank you Senator Larson for allowing us the time to educate ourselves about the many issues within this bill. Issues that should have been introduced in separate bills allowing for discussion in a democratic way which is the foundation of our freedom. I stand behind you, Senator, and applaud your efforts.
Judy Beehler March 17, 2011 at 11:23 AM
Larson and Fab 14 are heroes. Walker and his puppets are taking Wisconsin backwards. The environment, education, healthcare, and quality of life are all going to suffer terribly and Wisconsin is not going to be a good place to work, grow up, or grow old. The Tea Party is the puppet of big corporations and if you think those big corporations are going to do anything except make the rich wealthier and abuse the environment, you are sadly duped. If you doublt this, read up on the Koch brothers and the 11 BILLION DOLLAR bonus they so generously paid themselves. No one needs to be that obscenely rich.
Juniper March 17, 2011 at 11:38 AM
Margaret and Judy...thanks for pointing out what's in the big picture. "It's the Unions" was a "weapons of mass destruction" moment. There's much more to this and the unions were just a diversion. Kids now get the message that bullies will do whatever they can to stay in control. Scott Walker is a college dropout (with murky details on why he actually left college) who is using scare tactics to get the masses to buy what his funders are selling and has little or no conflict/resolution skills. Where are all the state/county workers and teachers that supported Walker and why haven't we heard of them volunteering to give up their jobs in his name? Where are the parents that supported him and when will they step up and take one for their team and offer to have their kids be in classrooms of 40+ or pay higher state college tuition? (Cue the crickets sound)
G. JACOBSON March 17, 2011 at 01:13 PM
You should also thank Sticky Fingers Larson For not getting caught shop lifting will on vacation in Illinois.
G. JACOBSON March 17, 2011 at 01:16 PM
Most people can not get out to support Walker because of the violent people that are trying to protect the union and all of the free things that only they think they desire..
RocketMom March 17, 2011 at 01:17 PM
Larson is on the state's education committee. Good Schools = good place to live = higher property values. What new proposals is he bringing to the table to equalize education funding in our state? What is he doing to change some of the ridiculous unfunded mandates? Where can we get information on what is being proposed by the education committee? Furloughs are not the answer, where are parents going to get childcare? Hawaii and Utah both saw devastating effects to furloughs (4 day school weeks). Agree or Disagree on the budget bill - The party is over. Roll up your sleeves and get back to work people. Start pushing our legislature to tackle the tough problems affecting our children and communities. ###
LuvOC March 17, 2011 at 02:02 PM
You can come to OC Lavelle...theres room for one more Republican. :)
LuvOC March 17, 2011 at 02:03 PM
No, but I hear he has quite the collection of towels, soap and shampoo.
LuvOC March 17, 2011 at 02:09 PM
Im confused Judy. Why should someone who makes a business a billion dollar success be penalized? If you also look at their donations to charities, local community contributions and medical research~you would see that they do help the community. Now, I have never seen a sizable donation being made by the UAW, WEAC or AFL CIO. Did you know they donated 100 million$ to cancer research in MASS. (Maybe he only wanted it used for Republicans though.) Did you also know that WEAC invested 5.5 million in his company? Maybe they should withdraw out of protest. I was always told to never apologize for what you dont have and never apologize for what you have. However, if you stole the money or dont have money because of wastefulness....keep your mouth shut.
RocketMom March 17, 2011 at 03:03 PM
WEAC also sponsored a stage at the State Fair last year... instead of saving their member's jobs, or lowering their dues... very sad.
lavelle March 17, 2011 at 05:13 PM
nothing good has come from illinois or has come back from illinois the F.I.B. 14!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
lavelle March 17, 2011 at 07:44 PM
beating on rich people what about george soros....(who pulls nobama's puppet strings)
Lindsey March 19, 2011 at 12:41 AM
Chris Larson is my hero! He stood up for something he believes in! Democracy is complicated and doesn't end at the ballot box. And in the words of Kenny Rogers, you got to know when to fold 'em, know when to hold 'em, know when to walk away, know when to run. This is life and things don't always go down exactly lockstep the way they are supposed to. We are all fighting for what we believe in. Some people support Walker's less than admirable actions, some the 14. It all comes down to what matters to you and what you believe in. If high tailing it out of dodge to avoid a quorum was good enough for Abe Lincoln (even though his timing was off and they had already voted), then it's good enough for our Wisconsin senators!!
lavelle March 19, 2011 at 03:32 AM
if he's your hero you will fall for anything
Dean in O.C. March 21, 2011 at 05:38 PM
Lindsey, when you're gambling generally you need to run when you cheated so you don't get shot by the other players. If Sen. Larson thought he needed to run, it would say to me he has cheated (the taxpayers out of his paycheck). One interesting thing I would like to point out about Chris Larson. His predecessor, Sen Plale, would always ackowledge receiving my feedback on any issue. He would always send me a letter thanking me for contacting him and explaining his stance on the issue, regardless of whether I agreed or disagreed with him. It has been over a month since I contacted Sen Larson about my stance on this issue and I have not heard anything from him. To me, that speaks volume about his character. Guess he does have time for the little guy like me!
lavelle March 21, 2011 at 07:20 PM
yes you have to be in the same closet with "snake" larson to get a reply.. otherwise he just "don't" care
Debbie March 21, 2011 at 10:08 PM
FYI........ Dean and Lavelle: I wrote to Honadel and have not heard anything from him.
Juniper March 21, 2011 at 10:18 PM
Interesting...I used a list of emails from a rant on JSOnline for all 14 senators. Not only did they respond but they forwarded my comments onto Chris Larson's office. Parhaps they find the cup-of-crazy tea comments not worth responding to.
LuvOC March 21, 2011 at 10:27 PM
I have written several emails to Larson (not demeaning, just asking questions) and only got a 'standard chain' response. Every time I have written Honadel, I have received a response. The last one took about 10 days ....hes a little busy now. He will now be working on the Child Care Fraud issue that he helped organize, it was funded 500,000 and now because they cant agree...they have decided to scrap it. Mr. Honadel has promised to get on their case again.

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