Politics

Wisconsin Sends First Out Lesbian To The Senate

Tammy Baldwin defeated former Gov. Tommy Thompson to become the first out LGBT person — and a “proud … Wisconsin progressive” — in the U.S. Senate.

Senator-Elect Tammy Baldwin campaigned long and hard for Tuesday’s victory. Scott Olson / Getty Images

Rep. Tammy Baldwin, the first out lesbian in Congress, became the first openly LGBT senator Tuesday night with a victory over Gov. Tommy Thompson.

“The people of Wisconsin have made history,” Baldwin said in her victory speech. “I’m well aware that I will have the honor to be the first woman Senator from Wisconsin. And I’m well aware that I will be the first openly gay member of the United States Senate.”

“I didn’t run to make history,” she said. “I ran to make a difference — a difference in the lives of families struggling to find work and pay the bills, a difference in the lives of students worried about debt and seniors worried about their retirement security, a difference in the lives veterans who fought for us and need someone fighting for them and their families when they return home from war, a difference in the lives of entrepreneurs trying to build a business and working people trying to build some economic security.”

“[I]n choosing me to tackle those challenges, the people of Wisconsin have made history.”

After saying, post-election, that it was time “for us all to come together and focus on the challenges we all face,” Baldwin also laid down a marker for the type of senator she wants to be, saying, “Make no mistake. I’m proud to be a Wisconsin progressive. I believe in holding the powerful accountable. I believe in fair play. I believe that when people are struggling, you don’t talk down to them, you help lift them up. And I believe in Wisconsin’s workers and a work ethic that I will fight for everyday.”

She then added, “But I also believe that we can only move forward if we move forward together.”

Baldwin, who will take the seat held by retiring Sen. Herb Kohl, was part of a second first tonight, as Mark Pocan, an out gay man, won his race against Republican Chad Lee to take Baldwin’s House seat. His election marks the first time that an out LGBT member of Congress was replaced by another LGBT person.

Earlier this evening, when the first network to call the race — Fox News — reported Baldwin’s projected victory, the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which supports out LGBT candidates for public office, “erupted,” the group’s vice president, Denis Dison, told BuzzFeed.

“Our office just erupted in cheers, and now come the tears,” he said. “This is so huge, and we’re so happy.”

Supporters for Senator-Elect Tammy Baldwin gathered at her election rally in Madison, Wisconsin, on November 6, 2012. Sara Stathas / Reuters

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