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Meet Baldwin’s opponent: Tommy Thompson

Former Wis. guv wins Republican nomination

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Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (photo public domain)

The build up over whom lesbian U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin will face in the general election came to an end Tuesday night when Wisconsin voters gave the GOP nomination to former Gov. Tommy Thompson.

The Associated Press called the election for Thompson at around 11:30 in the evening. According to WisconsinVote.org — a project of Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television — Thompson had around 34 percent of the vote.

The GOP candidate who came closest was hedge fund manager Eric Hovde, who had 30.9 percent of the vote. Former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann had 22.8 percent while Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald had 12.4 percent.

SEE WHO MAY BE FILLING TAMMY BALDWIN’S HOUSE SEAT NEXT YEAR.

On the same night, Baldwin officially claimed the Democratic nomination in her pursuit of the seat that Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) is vacating at the end of this year, putting her in a position to become the first openly gay person elected to the Senate.

Thompson has a long history of service in public office. He served as Wisconsin’s governor from from 1987 to 2001 and was secretary of health and human services under former President George W. Bush. In 2008, Thompson sought the Republican nomination to run for the White House, but dropped out early in his bid.

Thompson’s victory in the Republican primary is probably the worst outcome for Baldwin because the former governor is popular in his state and was seen as a moderate candidate with the greatest appeal to the mainstream voters. Still, he didn’t have the self-financing capability of Hovde, who funded 92 percent of his campaign with millions of his own money.

In a statement issued on the night of the primary, Baldwin tore into Thompson, saying he’ll “stand with those who already have too much power and influence in Washington.”

“I will fight to do what’s right for the middle class and Thompson will put those at the very top and the big monied special interests in Washington ahead of Wisconsin’s hard working families,” Baldwin said. “I will take on these powerful interests in Washington, and in the Senate, I will stand up for Wisconsin’s middle class, as I always have.”

Among the policies that Baldwin said she’ll push for include a “Made in Wisconsin” manufacturing economy; tax cuts for small business to fuel job creation; ending tax breaks for outsourcing and giving companies tax incentives to create jobs within the United States.

“Tommy Thompson supports the policies of the past,” Baldwin said. “Policies that have failed. Policies from the past that crashed our economy, and got us into our fiscal mess in the first place. He believes we should slash the very investments we need to move our economy forward, in education, innovation, and infrastructure — all while cutting taxes for those at the very top.”

Recent polls have put Baldwin either dead-even with Thompson or him with a single-digit lead. In a CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac poll published last week, Baldwin ties Thompson, 47-47. In a Marquette University poll, Thompson leads Baldwin 48-43.

Still, Baldwin is in good position to take on Thompson in terms of fundraising; she’s nearly trebled the funds the GOP candidate has raised. According to Federal Election Commission reports, Baldwin has $7.1 million in net receipts, $4.7 million in net expenditures and $3.2 million in cash on hand. None of her net receipts are the result of self-financing.

In comparison, Thompson has $2.5 million in net receipts, $2.1 million in net expenditures and $198,000 in cash on hand. Around $133,000, or five percent, of his net receipts are the result of contributions to his own campaign.

The Republican primary fell on the same day that LPAC, the lesbian Super PAC launched by Chicago Cubs co-owner Laura Ricketts, announced it has endorsed Baldwin and would match every dollar that individuals give to her campaign through the Super PAC up to $50,000. That means the group has a goal of raising $100,000 for Baldwin.

Arguably, Thompson was the least opposed to LGBT rights of the four major Republican candidates in the running. During an interview with Wisconsin’s CBS 58 earlier this year, he said marriage should be left to the states and he backs the Defense of Marriage Act, but stopped short of endorsing a Federal Marriage Amendment for the U.S. Constitution.

“I believe very strongly in the Defense of the Marriage Act,” Thompson said. “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.”

During a 2008 Republican presidential debate, Thompson said “yes” when questioned whether employers should be able fire people if they’re gay, but later said he answered the question incorrectly and doesn’t believe in discrimination. Thompson said he backs Wisconsin’s statewide law against discrimination against gays — enacted in 1982 and the first-ever in the country — but stopped short of saying he’d support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

“I didn’t hear the question properly and I apologize,” Thompson said. “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.”

As secretary of health and human services, Thompson headed Bush’s domestic effort against HIV/AIDS, renewing the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, announcing approval of rapid testing and directing funds to confront the epidemic. But Thompson also worked for a president who touted abstinence-only education and remained silent on gay men and condoms for much of his administration.

On the other hand, as the first non-incumbent openly gay person elected to the U.S. House, Baldwin not only supported, but has taken the lead on pro-LGBT legislation and helped guide it through Congress. Baldwin voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment in 2004 and 2006. In later years, she voted for hate crimes protections legislation, a sexual orientation-only version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal.

CORRECTION: An initial version of this article incorrectly referred to Tammy Baldwin as the first openly gay person to have a major party nomination in a bid for a U.S. Senate seat. That distinction actually goes to Ed Flanagan of Vermont, whom the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund endorsed in 2000. Flanagan lost his bid to incumbent Jim Jeffords, who was a Republican at the time. The Blade regrets the error.

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The White House

Biden, Harris, deliver remarks for White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention

Pulse survivor Brandon Wolf among those who spoke

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President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris listen as U.S. Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-Fla.) addresses an audience in the Rose Garden including federal, state and local officials, survivors and family members, and gun violence prevention advocates on Sept. 22, 2023. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Wolf)

President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, and U.S. Rep. Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) addressed an audience from the Rose Garden of the White House on Friday to honor the establishment of a first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention.

In a press release Thursday announcing the move, the administration said its aim is to implement and expand the provisions of last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act along with those contained in the president’s executive orders targeting issues of gun violence.

Additionally, Biden explained in his remarks, the office will coordinate more support for survivors, families and communities, including mental health services and financial aid; identify new avenues for executive action; and “expand our coalition of partners in states and cities across America” given the need for legislative solutions on the local and state level.

Harris, who will oversee the office, pledged to “use the full power of the federal government to strengthen the coalition of survivors and advocates and students and teachers and elected leaders to save lives and fight for the right of all people to be safe from fear and to be able to live a life where they understand that they are supported in that desire and that right.”

The vice president noted her close experiences with the devastating consequences of gun violence in her work as a federal prosecutor, San Francisco district attorney, California attorney general and in her current role.

Biden’s comments also included highlights of his administration’s accomplishments combatting gun violence and a call to action for Congress to do more. “It’s time again to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines,” he told lawmakers.

The president also credited the the work of advocates including those who were gathered at the White House on Friday: “all of you here today, all across the country, survivors, families, advocates — especially young people who demand our nation do better to protect all; who protested, organized, voted, and ran for office, and, yes, marched for their lives.”

Taking the stage before introducing Biden, Frost noted that “Right before I was elected to Congress, I served as the national organizing director for March for Our Lives, a movement that inspired young people across the nation to demand safe communities.”

“The president understands that this issue especially for young people, especially for marginalized communities, is a matter of survival,” the congressman said. And the formation of this office, “comes from Pulse to Parkland,” he said, adding, “we fight because we love.”

Human Rights Campaign National Press Secretary Brandon Wolf, a survivor of the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting, which was America’s second deadliest mass shooting and the deadliest against the LGBTQ community, shared a comment with the Washington Blade after Friday’s ceremony:

“Seven years ago, when my best friends and 47 others were murdered at our safe place — Pulse Nightclub — we promised to honor them with action. This is what that looks like. This deep investment in the fight to end gun violence matters, and I cannot wait to see Vice President Harris lead these efforts. We can blaze the path toward a future free of gun violence. And today marked an important step in that direction.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal judge: drag is ‘vulgar and lewd,’ ‘sexualized conduct’

Ruling ‘bristles with hostility toward LGBTQ people’

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J. Marvin Jones Federal Building, U.S. Courthouse in Amarillo, Texas (Photo: Library of Congress)

Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a ruling Thursday denying relief to a group of university students who sought to host a drag show over the objections of their school’s president.

A Trump appointed jurist with deep ties to anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion conservative legal activists, Kacsmaryk argued that drag performances probably do not constitute speech protected by the First Amendment.

As Slate Senior Writer Mark Joseph Stern wrote on X, this conclusion “conflicts with decisions from Texas, Florida, Tennessee and Montana which held that drag is constitutionally protected expression.”

“It also bristles with undisguised hostility toward LGBTQ people,” he added.

Kacsmaryk’s 26-page decision describes drag performances as lewd and licentious, obscene and sexually prurient, despite arguments the plaintiffs had presented about the social, political, and artistic merit of this art form.

As the Human Rights Campaign recently wrote, “drag artists and the spaces that host their performances have long served as a communal environment for queer expression.”

The group added, “It is a form of art and entertainment, but, historically, the performances haven’t only served to entertain, but also to truly advance the empowerment and visibility of LGBTQ+ people.”

Nevertheless, anti-LGBTQ conservative activists and organizations have perpetuated conspiracy theories about members of the community targeting children for sexual abuse including by bringing them to drag performances.

Among these is a group with ties to the Proud Boys that was cited by Kacsmaryk in his ruling: Gays Against Groomers, an anti-LGBTQ and anti-transgender extremist group, according to the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center.

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The White House

Harris to oversee White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention

Goal is to implement and expand upon legislation, executive actions

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U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, September 2023. (Official White House photograph by Lawrence Jackson)

The White House announced Thursday evening that President Joe Biden on Friday will establish the first-ever White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention, to be overseen by Vice President Kamala Harris.

The office will focus on implementing and expanding upon executive and legislative actions, including the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, “to reduce gun violence, which has ravaged communities across the country.”

Serving under Harris will be Stefanie Feldman, “a longtime policy advisor to President Biden on gun violence prevention,” and “leading gun violence prevention advocates Greg Jackson and Rob Wilcox.”

“Every time I’ve met with families impacted by gun violence as they mourn their loved ones, and I’ve met with so many throughout the country, they all have the same message for their elected officials: ‘do something,'” Biden said in a statement.

The president noted his signing of last year’s bipartisan gun violence prevention law, a flagship legislative accomplishment for the administration, along with his issuance of more executive actions than any president in history to address this problem.

Calling these “just the first steps,” Biden said the establishment of the White House Office on Gun Violence Prevention will “build upon these measures and keep Americans safe.”

He also urged Congress to do more by passing legislation requiring universal background checks, and baning assault weapons and high capacity magazines.

In a statement, Harris said, “This epidemic of gun violence requires urgent leadership to end the fear and trauma that Americans experience every day.”

“The new Office of Gun Violence Prevention will play a critical role in implementing President Biden’s and my efforts to reduce violence to the fullest extent under the law,” she said, “while also engaging and encouraging Congressional leaders, state and local leaders, and advocates to come together to build upon the meaningful progress that we have made to save lives.”

“Our promise to the American people is this: we will not stop working to end the epidemic of gun violence in every community, because we do not have a moment, nor a life to spare,” the vice president said.

Then Vice President Biden hugs Brandon J. Wolf as he talks with family members of the victims and survivors in the June 12th mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida, June 16, 2016.
Wolf, a Pulse survivor, was recently appointed National Press Secretary of the Human Rights Campaign.
(Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
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