Wisconsin residents will cast their votes on Tuesday in an open primary for one of several contenders seeking the Republican nomination to run for a U.S. Senate seat. The winner will go on to challenge presumptive Democratic nominee Tammy Baldwin in her bid to become the first openly gay U.S. senator.
The four main contenders — former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, hedge fund manager Eric Hovde, former congressman Mark Neumann and Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald — have almost uniformly adopted anti-LGBT positions, including support for a U.S. constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage throughout the country.
The exception is Thompson, who stopped short of backing a Federal Marriage Amendment, but said he supports the Defense of Marriage Act. Thompson also said he opposes workplace discrimination, but hasn’t announced support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.
The latest polls give the lead to Hovde, a relative newcomer to the race who’s spent millions of his own money. According to a Public Policy Poll published Friday, Hovde leads with 27 percent support, followed by Thompson at 25, Neumann at 24 and Fitzgerald at 15.
The Wisconsin Senate primary isn’t the only race of interest in the state for the LGBT community. Wisconsin Assembly member Mark Pocan is in a contest with fellow Assembly member Kelda Helen Roys for the Democratic nomination to represent Wisconsin’s 2nd congressional district in Congress. The Washington Blade will have updates Tuesday evening on both of these races.
Past positions: former Wisconsin governor, secretary of Health and Human Services under former President George W. Bush, candidate for Republican nomination for president in 2008 election
Polling with Baldwin: CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac poll, Baldwin ties Thompson, 47-47; Marquette University poll, Thompson leads Baldwin 48-43
Fundraising info: Net receipts: $2,467,185; net expenditures: $2,114,270; Self-financing: $132,500 (5%); cash on hand: $352,915
Positions on LGBT issues:
• In the 2008 presidential debate, Thompson said “yes” when asked if he thinks employers should be able to fire employees for being gay:
“I think that is left up to the individual business. I really sincerely believe that is an issue that business people have to got to make their own determination as to whether or not they should be.”
• Immediately afterward, Thompson retracted the statement in a clarification to CNN. He said he supports Wisconsin statewide law against sexual orientation discrimination, but stopped short of endorsing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act:
“I made a mistake. I misinterpreted the question. I thought that I answered it yes when I should have answered it no. I didn’t hear, I didn’t hear the question properly and I apologize. It’s not my position. There should be no discrimination in the workplace and I have never believed that. And, in fact, Wisconsin has one of the first laws, which I supported.
• Headed former President George W. Bush’s domestic effort against HIV/AIDS as HHS secretary, renewing Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, announcing approval of rapid testing and directing funds to confront the epidemic.
• On Aug. 3, told CBS 58 in Wisconsin he opposes same-sex marriage and supports “the Defense of the Marriage Act,” but stopped short of supporting a Federal Marriage Amendment:
“I believe very strongly in the Defense of the Marriage Act. Marriage is one man and one woman. I support that. That’s the federal law. I’m a little gun shy of people saying, ‘We got to have constitutional amendments for this or that. I happen to like our Constitution, and, I think, you should not be going around amending constitutions. I am very much in favor of the Defense of the Marriage Act, the federal Defense of the Marriage Act, and that’s what should have, and gay marriage should be left up to the states. This is not a federal thing; this is a state thing. And so let’s leave the constitution out of it, let’s defend the federal law, one man, one woman for marriage, and allow the states to determine what they want to do on this subject.”
Past positions: hedge fund manager, no previous public office
Polling with Baldwin: CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac poll, Baldwin leads Hovde 47-43; Marquette University poll, Baldwin leads Hovde 44-41
Fundraising info: Net receipts: $5,532,185; net expenditures: $4,945,880; Self-financing: $5,100,000 (92%); cash on hand: $586,304
Positions on LGBT issues:
• endorsed by the anti-gay group Wisconsin Family Action
• On Aug. 3, told Wisconsin’s CBS 58 he backs a Federal Marriage Amendment on the grounds of protecting religious liberties:
“Yes, I would. I believe marriage is between a man and a woman. That is my belief. In fact, if you look at the history of marriage, it comes from the church, and I don’t think it’s the government’s position to come in and impose upon religion and tell them how they should believe or what they have to accept. I mean, that’s our First Amendment. It’s freedom of religion, it’s not freedom from religion, it’s freedom of religion. So, when people get married, they’ve always, through history, in front of God in a church. That is the church right to dictate and decide on what they feel is acceptable. So, I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. And saying that, I don’t believe in discriminating against anyone, whether you’re gay or whatever. I don’t believe in any form of discrimination. But I do fundamentally marriage is between a man and a woman.”
Past positions: former U.S. House member, former candidate for governor and U.S. Senate
Polling with Baldwin: CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac poll, Baldwin leads Neumann 48-45; Marquette University poll, Baldwin ties Neumann 44-44
Fundraising info: Net receipts: $2,728,227; net expenditures: $2,537,482 self-financing: $235,000 (9%); cash on hand: $198,235
Positions on LGBT issues:
• As a U.S. House member, Neumann voted for the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996
• In 1996, told the New York Times he wouldn’t allow homosexuality if he were God:
“If I was elected God for a day, homosexuality wouldn’t be permitted, but nobody’s electing me God.”
• According to a 2007 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel story, he’s suggested he wouldn’t hire an openly gay staffer:
“In response to a question at a meeting of the Christian Coalition, Neumann said that if a job applicant came into his office and said he or she was homosexual, ‘I would say that’s inappropriate, and they wouldn’t be hired, because that would mean they are promoting their agenda.”
• On Aug. 3, told Wisconsin’s CBS 58 he supports Federal Marriage Amendment and DOMA, also criticized President Obama for “ignoring” DOMA (Obama actually enforces the law, but doesn’t defend it in court):
“I would certainly support a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman, the way it has been through the whole history of the United States of America. … When I was in Congress I was happy to work to pass the Defense of Marriage Act, which did exactly that, and it’s unfortunate that Barack Obama in his own actions has decided to simply ignore the law that is on the books called the Defense of Marriage Act. … Being president of the United States does not empower you to do as you see fit; there are still laws of the land and you’re sworn to uphold those laws of the land.
Past positions: speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly
Polling with Baldwin: CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac poll, Baldwin leads Fitzgerald 51-39; Marquette University poll, Baldwin leads Fitzgerald 45-40
Fundraising info: Net receipts: $159,021; net expenditures: $115,517; self-financing: $0 (0%); cash on hand: $39,368
Positions on LGBT issues:
• Voted for statute against same-sex marriage in 2003 as well as constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2004 and 2006
• Voted to strip domestic partnerships — both the benefits and the registry in the same amendment — from the budget in 2009
• On Aug. 3, told Wisconsin’s CBS 58 that he ‘d back a Federal Marriage Amendment:
“Yeah, and I have in the state. We had a constitutional amendment here in the state. I believe marriage should between one man and one woman and I would stick by that on the federal level as well.”