Admitted (1880) to the Wisconsin bar, he practiced in Madison, Wis., and was district attorney (1880–84) of Dane co. As U.S. Representative (1885–91), he generally followed the traditionally conservative policies of the Republican party. After a political conflict that led to his break with the state Republican leaders, La Follette began to formulate a detailed reform program and, appealing directly to the people, to build a broad constituency. He unsuccessfully sought the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 1896 and 1898 and finally won it in 1900. As governor of Wisconsin (1901–6) he secured a direct primary law, tax reform legislation, railroad rate control, and other measures that became collectively known as the Wisconsin Idea.
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