Tammy Baldwin is first openly gay person elected to SenateOnline Only, Top Highlights Wednesday, November 7th, 2012
(CNN) – Tammy Baldwin made history Tuesday night – twice. She became the first openly gay politician, and first Wisconsin woman, elected to the U.S. Senate.
The seven-term Democratic congresswoman edged past former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson in a win that advocacy groups hailed as a significant stride toward bringing diversity to the Senate.
Baldwin said she ran “to make a difference” and not to make history. But she said she hopes the Senate will be more reflective 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.”
Political commentator Sally Kohn was ecstatic.
“This is a big day for gay women in America, and really, for all communities who aren’t the typical straight, white, wealthy men elected to Congress,” she said.
There has never been an openly gay or lesbian member of the U.S. Senate, according to several LGBT advocacy groups. Baldwin is one of four openly gay House members of the 112 U.S. Congress, along with fellow Democrats Barney Frank of Massachusetts, David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Jared Polis of Colorado.
“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 Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign.
Though Baldwin’s sexual orientation makes her victory notable, it rarely came up during the campaign, unless it was called a nonissue. The race pitted Thompson’s “conservative leadership” platform against Baldwin’s progressive agenda. Thompson, a four-time governor and secretary of Health and Human Services under George W. Bush, said he returned to politics to make America a better place for his grandchildren.
“I wanted to so much help lead back America,” he said in his concession speech. “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.”
What started as a long shot for Baldwin eventually narrowed to a close finish, with the born-and-raised Wisconsinite capturing 51 percent of the vote, according to CNN projections.
“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 chamber as the first openly gay person.”
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