Ready for the fight

Baldwin says she doesn’t believe anti-gay attacks against her in her U.S. Senate bid would work with Wisconsin voters

 

Baldwin.Polis
Openly gay members of Congress Rep. Tammy Baldwin, center, and Rep. Jared Polis, right, answer questions from Jonathan Capehart, left, at the International Gay Lesbian Leadership Conference in San Francisco in December 2009. Baldwin, a Democrat from Wisconsin, has announced she is seeking the seat in the U.S. Senate left vacant by the retirement of Democratic Sen. Herbert Kohl. If she wins the election, Baldwin will become the first openly LGBT person in the U.S. Senate. (Russel A. Daniels/Associated Press)

Lisa Keen  |  Keen News Service
lisakeen@me.com

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin said last week 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 sexual orientation.

Baldwin, one of only four openly gay members of the U.S. House, announced Sept. 6 that she will seek the Democratic nomination to replace Sen. 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 Sept. 7 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 the 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 current polling suggests between 52 percent and 55 percent of voters in the state recognize her name. And given the potential 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,” Baldwin added, “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 Sept. 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.

© 2011 by Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 16, 2011.

 

—  Kevin Thomas

Rep. Tammy Baldwin ‘very likely’ to run for Senate

Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, speaks during the 2010 Black Tie Dinner in Dallas. (John Wright/Dallas Voice)

Wisconsin congresswoman would be 1st openly gay person to serve in upper house

LISA KEEN | Keen News Service

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin’s office is, thus far, silent on whether the openly gay legislator might make a bid for the U.S. Senate. But buzz about that possibility is hot, particularly within the LGBT community because, if successful, Baldwin would become the first openly gay person to serve in the U.S. Senate.

An aide to Baldwin did not respond to this reporter’s inquiry.

But the Wisconsin Democratic chair told reporters in a phone call with state media outlets that Baldwin is “very seriously considering running,” according to the Milwaukee Journal. The Journal added, “A close adviser to Baldwin echoed that sentiment.”

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which supports openly gay candidates, indicated on its website that “sources close” to Baldwin said she is “very likely” to run.

“This would obviously be a top priority for us,” said Victory Fund president Chuck Wolfe, according to the website. “This would be a remarkable milestone for LGBT Americans. Congresswoman Baldwin is one of the most admired public officials I know. She would have the strong support of those who want to see our economy work for all Americans, and who believe that all voices deserve a place at the table.”

The Victory Fund even launched a petition where people can “tell Tammy Baldwin we need her voice in the Senate.” Sign it by going here.

There is no shortage of potential candidates for the seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Herb Kohl, the incumbent Democrat from Wisconsin. Kohl made an announcement May 13 that he would not seek re-election in 2012 — an announcement that had not been expected.

Newspapers in Wisconsin immediately began identifying a list of potential candidates — a very long list — that included Baldwin. Others mentioned, on the Democratic side, include former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, who lost his re-election bid only last year to newcomer Republican Ron Johnson.

Most prominent in the GOP category is Rep. Paul Ryan, who has been much in the news for his proposals, as chair of the House Budget Committee, to make enormous cuts in spending.

Ryan said he would make his decision in the next few days. A former aide to Feingold said Feingold would probably decide within the next month.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin holds its annual convention in Milwaukee beginning June 3, so some candidates may hold off on their decisions until they have a chance to test the waters with state party leaders.

The 2010 Senate race in Wisconsin was a very close one, with Republican Johnson winning with 52 percent of the vote, over incumbent Feingold’s 47 percent. Political maps of party leanings show a state with several pockets of Democrat and Republican voters, but more than half the state leans toward no particular party.

The Milkwaukee Journal quoted one of the state’s Democratic strategists as saying a key to determining who will emerge as a viable candidate is who can show the ability to raise between $2 million to $4 million just for the primary.

Baldwin needed only $1. 2 million last year to win re-election to her seventh term.

She has represented the district that includes Madison, with a focus on health issues.

Baldwin, who turned 49 in February, graduated from Smith College in Northampton, Mass., and earned a law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School. She was elected Dane County Supervisor for four terms, then served three terms in the State House of Representatives, before running for Congress. With her election in 1998, she became the first woman from Wisconsin to serve in the U.S. House and the first non-incumbent openly gay person to win a seat to Congress.

As one of four openly gay people in the U.S. House, Baldwin has been a leader on numerous bills of interest to LGBT people and a prominent voice for ensuring that legislation covers all sexual minorities.

© 2011 Keen News Service. All rights reserved.

—  John Wright

Sheriff Lupe Valdez, a Democrat, on why she’s going to the Log Cabin Republicans Convention

Sheriff Lupe Valdez

The Log Cabin Republicans will hold their National Convention in Dallas this coming weekend, and we’ll have a full story in Friday’s print edition. But because the convention actually begins Thursday, we figured we’d go ahead and post the full program sent out by the group earlier this week.

Perhaps the biggest surprise on the program is a scheduled appearance by gay Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, who is of course a Democrat.

Valdez, who’ll be one of the featured speakers at a Saturday luncheon, contacted us this week to explain her decision to accept the invitation from Log Cabin (not that we necessarily felt it warranted an explanation). Here’s what she said: 

“We have more things in common than we have differences, but it seems like in politics we constantly dwell on our differences,” Valdez said. “If we continue to dwell on our differences, all we’re going to do is fight. If we try to work on our common issues, we’ll be able to accomplish some things.”

On that note, below is the full program. For more information or to register, go here.

—  John Wright

Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund formally endorses Parker in Houston, Hightower in Arlington

Annise Parker at Dallas Pride

Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Arlington City Council challenger Chris Hightower were among eight openly LGBT candidates who received formal endorsements from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund today.

Parker was elected to a two-year term in 2009, making Houston the largest U.S. city with an openly LGBT mayor. Hightower is vying to become the first openly gay council member in Arlington’s history.

The Victory Fund has now endorsed 14 candidates in 2011, including three in Texas. Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns was the first candidate to receive the group’s backing this year.

From GayPolitics.com:

“We are proud to support Mayor Parker. Her success in Houston is proof of the remarkable talent and leadership LGBT Americans have to offer their communities as public servants,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund.

Parker welcomed the Victory Fund’s backing.

“I am grateful for the early and strong support of the Victory Fund. The Victory Fund is more than just a force for LGBT equality – it educates and equips qualified candidates to excel in public service for the benefit of all whom they represent. I will use the Victory Fund’s support to run a campaign that reaches out to every Houstonian and asks each one to join us in protecting and enhancing what is best about the city we share,” said Parker.

—  John Wright

Your daily dose of Joel Burns

Ever since his “It Gets Better” speech, it seems not a day (or even an hour) goes by that we don’t hear something new about openly gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns. Today’s news comes from GayPolitics.com, which reports that Burns is the Victory Fund’s first endorsed candidate for 2011.

His powerful October speech about the suicides of young gay people, delivered in the chambers of the Fort Worth City Council, has been viewed nearly 2.5 million times on YouTube, prompting media outlets from across the country (and the world) to seek interviews to discuss the issue of anti-LGBT bullying.

Councilman Joel Burns has become a hero to LGBT youth who so desperately need role models — people who are successful and respected, but who are also open and honest about being gay.

Now Burns is also the first 2011 candidate to earn the Victory Fund’s endorsement. He’s running for re-election to represent District 9 on the Fort Worth City Council, and the Victory Fund is out to make sure he wins.

“Joel represents what the Victory Fund is all about — making sure LGBT voices are represented in government, and making sure we are heard,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund.

—  John Wright

Record 106 gay candidates elected in 2010

Construction company executive Jim Gray was elected mayor of Kentucky’s second-largest city, Lexington.

From Staff and Wire Reports

A record number of openly LGBT candidates have been elected to public office in 2010, according to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund.

“There is no sugar-coating the loss of so many of our straight allies in Congress, but we can be proud that our community continues to expand its voice at all levels of government in America,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund. “Out public officials are having a sizable impact on the local, state and national debates about LGBT equality. Increasing their numbers is a vital part of a long-term strategy to change America’s politics and make our country freer and fairer for everyone. We will continue to focus on training committed, qualified candidates, and we will work hard to get them elected to public office.”

At least 106 of the group’s record-breaking 164 endorsed candidates were winners as of Wednesday morning, the Victory Fund said.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise came in Lexington, Kentucky, where openly gay construction company executive Jim Gray won election as mayor. The Lexington Herald-Leader reported the news shortly after the polls closed at 6 p.m. Gray has been serving as the city’s vice mayor and defeated incumbent mayor Jim Newberry.

The paper said the campaign has been one of the most expensive in the city’s history and only the second time a sitting mayor has been defeated. The ballot in Lexington does not indicate party affiliation. According to results published by the Herald-Leader, Gray won with 53 percent of the vote, to Mayor Jim Newberry’s 46 percent. The Herald-Leader noted that Gray lost a bid for mayor in 2002, when his sexual orientation was not public. Gray came out before running successfully for an at-large seat on the Urban County Council.

In another southern state, North Carolina, openly gay candidate Marcus Brandon of High Point won his first-time run for state representative and, in doing so, becomes the state’s first openly gay legislator. According to the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, Brandon also becomes only the fifth openly gay African-American elected to a state legislature anywhere in the country. As of 10:30 Tuesday night, three hours after polls closed, the state Board of Elections showed Brandon with 70 percent of the vote, compared to Republican Lonnie Wilson. The race was to represent North Carolina’s District 60, which encompasses Guilford County in the middle of the state. Brandon told the News-Record newspaper of Greensboro that his sexual orientation was not a secret but that “This is not something I wanted to take over my campaign.”

“Nobody in a year-and-a-half ever asked me about my sexuality,” Brandon said, in an Oct. 15 blog by an editorial writer in which the paper noted his race was one of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund’s “Ten Races to Watch” this year.

U.S. Rep. Barney Frank won re-election to a 16th term as Massachusetts congressman from the 4th District. Frank won against an aggressive Republican challenger, Sean Bielat, who had a surge of out-of-state funding in the final days of the campaign to fuel a flood of campaign literature and robo-calls. While Frank’s re-election was considered predictable, the margin of victory represents a significant drop in support for Frank. Frank garnered only 54 percent of the vote Tuesday, dropping well below his previous lowest re-election take of 68 percent in 2008. The returns almost guarantee an even tougher re-match against Bielat in 2012.

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) won re-election to a seventh term with 62 percent of the vote, down just a few points from her previous re-election margin. U.S. Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) won a second term with 56 percent of the vote.

Providence, Rhode Island’s openly gay mayor, David Cicilline, won his bid to represent the 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House. The win will make him the fourth openly gay member of the Congress. With all precincts counted, Cicilline had secured 50.6 percent of the vote, compared to Republican John Loughlin’s 44.5 percent, and 4.9 percent for two other candidates.

In Connecticut, openly gay health care advocate Kevin Lembo appears to have won his race for the state comptroller’s seat, taking 52 percent of the vote to Republican Jack Orchulli’s 44 percent. The win makes Lembo the only openly gay candidates to win a statewide race Tuesday night.

Laurie Jinkins has won her bid to the Washington State House, and becomes its first openly lesbian state lawmaker.

And Victoria Kolakowski appears to have won election as a judge on the Superior Court of Alameda County, California, becoming the first transgender trial court judge in the country.

But there were losses, too.

Two openly gay candidates lost their bids for seats in the U.S. House. Democrat Ed Potosnak, a teacher and businessman, lost his bid to unseat Republican incumbent Leonard Lance in New Jersey’s 7th Congressional district. Potosnak had been given very little chance of winning in his first run, but still pulled in 40 percent of the vote. And Steve Poughnet, the openly gay mayor of Palm Springs, Calif., garnered 40 percent in his first run for Congress against incumbent Republican Mary Bono Mack.

Two openly gay candidates for lieutenant governor lost as the head of their tickets fell to defeat. Steve Howard lost as the number two person on the Democratic ticket in Vermont. And Richard Tisei lost as part of the Republican ticket in Massachusetts, where incumbent Democratic governor Deval Patrick won re-election with 49 percent of the race, against Republican Charlie Baker’s 42 percent, and Independent Tim Cahill’s 8.

And openly gay Republican Ken Rosen appears to have lost his bid to represent Michigan’s 26th District in the state house. At 11:23 Tuesday night, early results showed Rosen with 44 percent of the vote, trailing Democrat Jim Townsend who has 53 percent.

© 2010 Keen News Service

—  John Wright

Cicilline becomes 4th gay member of Congress

The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund is reporting that Providence Mayor David Cicilline has won his race for Congress in Rhode Island.

“Mayor Cicilline will be a strong advocate for all Rhode Islanders, but he will also be an authentic voice for the millions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans who long for the day when we will be treated equally under law,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund. “We are enormously proud of him and grateful to Rhode Island voters.”

Cicilline will join openly gay Reps. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Jared Polis of Colorado, all Democrats.

—  John Wright

Gay Congressman Barney Frank re-elected

Barney Frank

More good news from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund. Congressman Barney Frank, D-Mass., has been re-elected despite a strong challenge from Tea Party-backed Republican Sean Bielat.

“Barney Frank is nothing if not a fighter, and we’re very happy he will return to the House and continue to fight for the people of Massachusetts and for all LGBT Americans. Nobody has worked harder or longer in the U.S. Congress for fairness and equality for the LGBT community,” said Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund.

Frank has served in the House since 1981 and came out as gay in 1987.

Again, to keep track of how gay candidates are faring across the country, go here.

—  John Wright

Kentucky’s 2nd-largest city elects gay mayor

Jim Gray

Our first big gay result from Election Night is in.

Lexington, Kentucky’s second-largest city, has elected an openly gay mayor:

From GayPolitics.com:

Vice-Mayor Jim Gray was victorious tonight in his second campaign for the city’s top job, beating incumbent Mayor Jim Newberry.

“This is a tremendous victory for Lexington, for Kentucky’s LGBT community and for fairness.  We are proud of Jim Gray and his fantastic campaign staff who fought hard for this win,” said Chuck Wolfe, Victory Fund’s president and CEO.

Gray is one of more than 1o0 candidates endorsed by the Victory Fund on the ballot today. To follow Victory-fund endorsed candidates throughout the night, go here.

—  John Wright