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Can Wisconsin politics be civil again?

RICHLAND CENTER, Wis. -- The question many Wisconsinites are asking is whether the state can return to political civility.

Tuesday's recall election has produced a lot of raw emotions from both Democrats and Republicans

But you might say the seed of civility has been planted in state politics.

In both Gov. Scott Walker's victory speech and Mayor Tom Barrett's concession speech, the candidates encouraged their supporters to find common ground.

"I just got off the phone with Gov. Walker and congratulated him on his victory tonight," said Barrett. "We agreed that it is important for us to work together."

"The election is over. I talked to the mayor, and we had a good talk. And I said, 'I am committed to working with you,'" said Walker.

But just like State Sen. Dale Schultz's garden, a return to respectful political discourse in the state is going to take a lot of work, and it's not going to happen overnight.

"I don't think anybody is naive enough to think that suddenly 'Kumbaya' is going to break out, but we have to start somewhere," said Schultz, a Richland Center Republican.

That's why Schultz wrote a letter and sent it out to media outlets across the state. It was a call to his fellow legislators to work together to get the state back on track.

"People in this state want us to work together and they are tired of the screaming and the talking past one another. They want their problems addressed," said Schultz.


But Richard Kyte, the director of the D.B. Reinhart Institute for Ethics in Leadership at Viterbo University, said it's going to take more than lawmakers' cooperation-- the voters have a responsibility too.

"If we reward incivility by electing people who don't get along with one another, then of course it's going to encourage more of it. So ultimately, the citizenry in a democracy is responsible for setting the tone for action," said Kyte.

Since the collective bargaining protests in 2011 and the recall election in 2012 gained national attention, the way Wisconsin chooses to move forward could make it a role model for political civility for the rest of the country.

"If we let our actions follow our words in a positive way, we can be a shining example for this country in the years ahead," said Schultz.

But he said it's going to take some hard work and room to grow for that seed of civility to take root.

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