If elected she would become the first openly gay senator
U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin said Wednesday that her campaign for a U.S. Senate seat from Wisconsin “will not be about me,” but she’s “prepared to respond to any number of likely attacks in this political age,” including ones based on her being gay.
Baldwin, one of only four openly gay members of the U.S. House, announced Tuesday that she will seek the Democratic nomination to replace Senator Herb Kohl, a Democrat who announced in May that he would not seek re-election in 2012.
Although Baldwin is not the first openly gay person to run for a U.S. Senate seat, her campaign has ignited considerable enthusiasm in the LGBT political community.
Chuck Wolfe, head of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which supports openly gay candidates for elective office, said in a telephone conference call with LGBT media Wednesday that the Victory Fund “believes this will be an important race for our community.” He predicted the community would “rally around” Baldwin, whom he called a “stellar” representative of the community.
Baldwin, who participated in that call and took questions from the media, said she expects the campaign to be “hotly, hotly contested,” as are all Senate races in recent years. The partisan balance has been closely divided for years. Democrats currently have 51 seats plus 2 Independents who caucus with them; Republicans have 47.
It takes a majority of 60 to break a filibuster staged by a minority party, and the Republican Party has made filibuster an almost routine maneuver since 2008, in hopes of thwarting a second term for Democratic President Barack Obama. Following Obama’s election in 2008, Democrats and Independents held 60 seats.
Baldwin said her first challenge will be to introduce herself to parts of Wisconsin outside her district of Madison, the state capital. She said currently polling suggests between 52 percent and 55 percent of voters in the state recognize her name. And given the potential “in this political age” for a hotly contested Senate race to include an anti-gay attack, said Baldwin, she’s eager to introduce herself to voters around the state before an attacker does.
Baldwin doesn’t necessarily believe an anti-gay attack will be particularly effective in Wisconsin. She noted that the western part of the state has also elected an openly gay member of Congress before –U.S. Rep. Steve Gunderson. Gunderson ran for re-election twice after he was outed in 1991.
Baldwin noted that she has been openly gay “all my adult life” and she thinks the voters of Wisconsin “appreciate values of honesty and integrity.”
“And I have a lifetime commitment to equality for all,” said Baldwin. But “this campaign,” said Baldwin, “will not be about me, it will be about the middle class, the threats they’re facing, and which candidate is the best fighter for them.”
Meanwhile, two state representatives in Wisconsin announced Wednesday, September 7, that they will seek the Democratic nomination to run for Baldwin’s seat. One is openly gay Rep. Mark Pocan, who filled in Baldwin’s state assembly seat when she was elected to Congress. The other is State Rep. Kelda Roys, the youngest member of the Wisconsin assembly and former head of the Wisconsin chapter of NARAL.