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