September 4, 2012 | by Chris Johnson
UPDATE: Baldwin expects to campaign with Obama

U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin speaks before the LGBT caucus at the Democratic National Convention (Blade photo by Michael Key)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin expects to campaign with President Obama in Wisconsin between now and November as her bid to become the nation’s first openly gay Senator heats up.

The Washington Blade asked Baldwin during a press conference following remarks she delivered at the LGBT Caucus meeting at the Democratic National Convention about whether there were any plans for her to campaign jointly with the president.

Baldwin said those talks are “absolutely” happening but declined to make any specific announcements. A spokesperson for her campaign later told the Blade that Baldwin fully expects to campaign with the president.

“I just came from last week campaigning with the first lady in Milwaukee, on Sunday, campaigning with Vice President Biden in Green Bay, and I have every expectation that it is going to be a battleground contest in Wisconsin for both the U.S. Senate and the president,” Baldwin said. “So, I look forward to the opportunity to work with the president in any matter I can.”

She noted that she and Obama campaigned together during the 2008 election.

“I joined him onstage at the University of Madison campus,” Baldwin said. “I think there were 30,000 folks who came to that rally. It was very exciting. I trust we’ll have more like that, but I don’t know what the schedule is going forward, so, we’ll see it as it comes.”

Baldwin, who’s running against Republican Tommy Thompson for the open U.S. Senate seat in Wisconsin, faces a tough fight, as polls show Thompson with a significant lead.

Campaigning with Obama could boost Baldwin’s numbers in addition to benefiting Obama because the state could be a battleground in the Republican presidential election with Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan on the Republican ticket as vice presidential nominee. Last month, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said he had “no campaign announcements” when asked if the president would campaign with Baldwin. The Obama campaign on Tuesday didn’t immediately respond to the Blade’s request for comment.

Asked to respond to the approval of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in North Carolina and whether that gave her pause about holding the convention in the state, Baldwin recounted the passage of a similar ballot measure in Wisconsin during the 2006 election and predicted views would change — just as President Obama evolved and come out in support of marriage equality.

“I do know in terms of the issue and how we’re moving — just like we’ve seen the president evolve — we heard him talk about what it took to change his heart and move him,” Baldwin said. “We are seeing that across this country. They estimate — and I don’t know where they get these numbers — that two percent of Americans changed their views on marriage equality. We know that had the amendment come up in Wisconsin this year, or next election cycle, it would have had a different outcome. And I think that’s also going to happen in North Carolina and elsewhere in the country. We’ve got to keep working. We’ve got to keep educating.”

In response to a question on whether she’d speak out to call on President Obama to issue an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees, Baldwin said LGBT advocates should continue efforts going forward to achieve progress. Baldwin was among the 72 House members who signed a letter calling on President Obama to take such action — before the White House said it wouldn’t issue the order at this time.

“I certainly supported the effort that was launched earlier this year to raise awareness and to push for that, but we can’t let up,” Baldwin said. “There’s going to be ample opportunities beyond the election to push both Congress to pass the law and make it permanent, but also encourage the president to expand what he can using his power of executive order. He’s done that to the advantage of the LGBT community extensively, more than any other previous president that I’ve seen.”

When asked a more light-hearted question — whether the LGBT caucus at the convention is “the happiest” of them all — Baldwin said, “Well, I haven’t compared yet, but the laughter and the applause coming out of that hall was pretty impressive.”

Questioned further on agenda items the LGBT caucus should push for, Baldwin identified a litany of LGBT rights measures that still have yet to be achieved.”Well, there are still challenges,” Baldwin said. “We live in a fairer America, but we’re not there, and true equal opportunity is not yet recognized throughout this country, so we have a lot of work to do. At the federal level, the Congress has yet to tackle the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, and until the Defense of Marriage Act is repealed, you have to look at equity for federal employees and other government workers and jurisdictions.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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