With its old traditions and sometimes draconian rules, the U.S. Senate is already known for displaying a bit of queer politics. But come Election Day, the most distinguished body in American politics may get a little queerer with the election of the Senate’s first openly gay member, current Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin.
Baldwin is currently locked in a razor thin race in Wisconsin against veteran Republican politico Tommy Thompson, the state’s former governor and one-time health and human services chief under President George W. Bush.
RealClearPolitics, featuring data from Public Policy Polling, gives Baldwin a three-point advantage in the race, though previous polls have placed Thompson ahead and even dubbed the race dead even as late as November 2. Baldwin cruised to her party’s nomination without a strong challenger in the primary election, while Thompson fended off a handful of GOP Senate hopefuls in the state, but has quickly made up the difference.
Baldwin is a longtime Madison congresswoman with a liberal record. Though she is on the edge of making history, she has remained more focused on the economy while receiving thousands of dollars in donations from gay supporters across the country. Baldwin’s bid has attracted the attention of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a national political action committee designed to support and train LGBT candidates for elected office.
Thompson’s campaign has not made an issue of Baldwin’s orientation — more evidence of the mainstreaming of gay politicians — and has received the endorsement of conservative gay and lesbian activists in Wisconsin who are disenchanted with Baldwin’s left-leaning politics and reputation as a Madison liberal.
But no matter what happens on Election Day, Baldwin’s race is one for the record books and may help turn a once oft-repeated phrase by LGBT activists ("We’re here, we’re queer, get used to it.") into a well-worn response by members of the country’s straight majority — you’re here, you’re queer, we’re used to it!
For real-time election results from Wisconsin, including live numbers, exit polls, and updates, see here.