November 6, 2018 at 9:19 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Tammy Baldwin wins re-election to U.S. Senate
Tammy Baldwin, gay news, Washington Blade

Sen. Tammy Baldwin at the Equality California Awards in San Francisco on May 12. (Photo by Chris Schmitt Photography)

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) won re-election Tuesday night to her seat representing Wisconsin in the U.S. Senate, becoming the first out lesbian and openly LGBT person to win re-election to the upper chamber of Congress.

CBS News declared Baldwin, a Democrat, the winner over her Republican opponent, State Sen. Leah Vukmir, shortly after polls closed in Wisconsin at 8 pm local time. The vote tally wasn’t known at the time of this posting.

Annise Parker, CEO of the LGBTQ Victory Fund, said in a statement Baldwin’s re-election was among the LGBT community’s highest priorities and her victory on election night is “phenomenal.”

“Six years ago, Senator Baldwin became a historic first and redefined what is possible for an LGBTQ candidate seeking a career in public service, and tonight’s victory provides a different but equally important political lesson,” Parker added. “It proves that an out LGBTQ candidate who unapologetically uses their political power to fight for equality can be reelected statewide in the era of Trump, even in a state that Trump won.”

Initially, observers thought the Senate race in Wisconsin, which President Trump won marginally in 2016, would be among the most competitive contests in the country. Political organizations connected to the Koch brothers spent millions in the race in an effort to defeat Baldwin and ran vicious attack ads against her.

But as Election Day approached, voters seem unmoved by the attacks Baldwin seem increasingly secure in her seat. With a couple exceptions, polls showed her leading Vukmir by double-digits.

With Vukmir floundering the race, the Republican resorted to Trump-esque tactics to smear Baldwin. One TV ad declared Baldwin belonged to “Team Terrorist” and Vukmir in a tweet referred to Baldwin as “Princess Painkiller.” (Vukmir made the insult even though Baldwin’s mother has had a history of battling prescription drug addiction.) Baldwin’s victory on Tuesday night was the ultimate repudiation of those attacks.

Vukmir had an anti-LGBT reputation as a member of the Wisconsin Senate. Her record includes support for a 2006 constitutional amendment that banned same-sex marriage in Wisconsin and opposition to an LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying measure. Anti-LGBT groups supported Vukmir in her campaign for the Senate and held a fundraiser for her in D.C.

In contrast, Baldwin, the first out lesbian elected to Congress, has had a longtime record of support for the LGBT community in previous role as a member of the U.S. House and in her current role as U.S. senator.

As a U.S. House member, Baldwin helped guide toward passage the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” After winning election to the U.S. Senate, Baldwin was instrumental in helping push through the Employment Non-Discrimination Act and is a co-sponsor of the Equality Act.

Aside from legislation, Baldwin has spoken out both during the Obama and Trump administration on LGBT health issues such as the gay blood ban as well as issues affecting LGBT youth and seniors.

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

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