• robert m. la follette was the most famous progressive in state government. he fought to overcome the all-powerful political party machines in wisconsin before being elected governor in 1900. his nickname was "battling bob." la follette's goal was to give the people more control over government. wisconsin became one of the first states to use a direct primary, where voters rather than political parties choose candidates to run for office. "battling bob" also passed a law requiring that civil-service workers take exams to qualify for jobs. that way, party bosses couldn't hire their friends in exchange for political favors.

    to reduce the power of utility companies, la follette established commissions to watch the cost and the quality of service. professors from the university of wisconsin served on the commissions, and he worked with the university's president to make sure powerful lumber companies did not overuse the state's forests. la follette's reforms became known as the wisconsin idea.