Making history: Tammy Baldwin becomes the first out Lesbian U.S. Senator
 

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posted Friday, November 9, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 45

Making history: Tammy Baldwin becomes the first out Lesbian U.S. Senator
by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Tammy Baldwin became the first out Lesbian elected to the U.S. Senate and the first woman senator from Wisconsin on November 6, defeating former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson.

'For the LGBT person growing up in Wisconsin or anywhere across the country, seeing an openly Gay woman who is able to rise up to become a senator in the U.S. Congress is an incredible role model,' said HRC president Chad Griffin.

Polling showed the race neck-and-neck for months, but Baldwin ultimately won by more than five points, helped by a last-minute surge and high voter turnout supporting President Obama, who also won the state. Baldwin also out-fundraised Thompson by almost $4 million.

SENATE MORE DIVERSE
In a post-election interview with CNN, Baldwin said she ran 'to make a difference' and not to make history. But she added that she hoped the Senate would now be more representative of America and the 'life experience' of women.

'Having a seat at the table matters and I think we will see a Senate that is more reflective of America. We're certainly not there yet, but this will be a change that moves us forward,' she told CNN.

'People see our country and our states moving toward full equality in many respects,' Baldwin said. 'When you have legislative bodies that look more like America, that happens.'

A VETERAN LAWMAKER
Baldwin has represented Wisconsin's Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives for the past 14 years. Her district is one of the nation's most liberal and includes Madison, the state capital. She will be succeeded in the House by Mark Pocan, an openly Gay state representative.

Although Baldwin has been out for her entire political career, her sexual orientation did not become an issue in the campaign.

'This campaign has been run on who's the most qualified candidate and who has the best vision for the state,' Griffin said. 'We're eager to have her move from one side of the Capitol to another and take a seat in the [Senate] chamber as the first openly Gay person.'

'The electorate already knew what they needed to know about her, and they continued to elect her every step of the way,' Victory Fund CEO Chuck Wolfe said.

'She is a force with very deep roots in Wisconsin. She has a backbone of steel, but she's polite and compassionate, and people enjoy their interactions with her.'

CHAMPION FOR ENDA
Baldwin was born and raised in Madison, serving on the City Council, the Dane County Council, and in the state legislature before running for Congress. Elected to the House in 1998, she co-founded the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus and currently leads the drive to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would ban anti-LGBT discrimination at the federal level.

She also led a successful effort to pass expanded hate-crimes legislation in 2009 and was the lead author of legislation to extend benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees.

'Tammy has been a driving force because of her ability to tackle issues without having to use double-speak,' Wolfe said. 'Having someone like her in the Senate changes the tone and tenor of this discussion.'

THOMPSON TIED TO BUSH
Thompson was a popular four-term governor, but he damaged his brand while serving as Health and Human Services secretary under President George W. Bush. He was also captured on video bragging about having eliminated Wisconsin's welfare program, an 'achievement' that associated him with the Tea Party in the minds of some voters.

'I wanted to so much help lead back America,' Thompson said in his concession speech Tuesday night. 'To be the country of growth and opportunity. To build America for future generations. I certainly didn't need the job. And I guess I'm not going to get it.'



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