U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin made history on at least three separate fronts Tuesday as she defeated former governor Tommy Thompson for the U.S. Senate seat in Wisconsin.
In capturing an expensive and often contentious campaign contest, the Democrat helped reshape the state’s political landscape once again: She became the first female U.S. Senator elected in Wisconsin, the first openly gay politician to serve in the U.S. Senate, and she ended the elective political career of the iconic former governor.
Baldwin called her victory a win for the middle class.
“I didn’t run to make history,” Baldwin said. “I ran to make a difference, a difference in the lives of families struggling to find work and pay the bills, a difference in the lives of students worried about debt and seniors worried about their retirement security.”
She said she would represent the interests of all Wisconsinites.
“I know many people listening tonight didn’t vote for me, but I will fight for you and move our state forward,” she said.
For his part, Thompson said he ran for the right reasons – to fight for smaller government – not because he needed a job. He also said he would not make another run for office.
“We came up short,” he said.
Thompson did not come up short in the Northwoods, at least. He ran ahead of Baldwin 54 percent to 43 percent in Vilas County, and eked out a 48-47 percent win in Oneida County.
Statewide, Baldwin received 1,533,868 votes, or 51 percent, to Thompson’s 1,370,664, or 46 percent.
In a general way, the senatorial contest mirrored the presidential race, with Baldwin portraying Thompson as a wealthy, out-of-touch lobbyist who had enriched himself at the expense of the middle class, while Thompson tried to characterize Baldwin as “more extreme than (Nancy) Pelosi” and “too extreme for Wisconsin.”
Thompson said it was he, not Baldwin, who had stood up time and again for the middle class while he was governor.
“While Tammy Baldwin has been trying to run from her record, I am proud to stand on mine,” Thompson said of his years as governor. “Working with the private sector, we created more than 740,000 jobs, cut taxes 91 times, and introduced bold reforms that were adopted nationally. Together, we turned Wisconsin into an economic powerhouse.”
Thompson asked Wisconsin to trust him to do it again. He promised to lower taxes and end Obamacare.
In contrast, Baldwin said Thompson’s ties to wealthy special interests disconnected him from the middle class, as did the Republican budget plan authored by Rep. Paul Ryan, which Thompson favored. She stressed economic security.
Among other things, she introduced the Paying a Fair Share Act, or so-called Buffett rule, to ensure that middle class workers do not pay a higher tax rate than those earning more than $1 million a year.
“It is simply unfair to ask middle class Americans to pay a higher tax rate than millionaires and billionaires,” Baldwin said. “The Paying a Fair Share Act will help restore people’s faith that if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll have a chance to get ahead. For far too long, our tax code has unfairly benefited the wealthiest Americans, while middle class families have taken it on the chin. It’s up to Congress to fix this obvious injustice.”
In addition to fighting for tax breaks for the middle class and small businesses, Baldwin says she voted against letting Wall Street and big banks write their own rules and was one of “only a handful of members of Congress” who voted no on repealing the Glass-Steagall Act. The Glass-Steagall Act had been in place since the Great Depression and kept banks from engaging in many of the risky practices that later led to the 2008 economic collapse, her campaign stated.
Baldwin’s victory was one of several notable Senate elections in which Democrats prevailed to secure their Senate majority. In Missouri, U.S. Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri failed to unseat Sen. Claire McCaskill, and in Indiana state treasurer Richard Mourdock lost to Indiana U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly.
In Massachusetts, Democrat Elizabeth Warren unseated Republican Sen. Scott Brown, while in Maine Independent Angus King took the seat left by the retiring Republican Olympia Snow, effectively turning that seat into a Democratic gain. King is expected to caucus with the Democratic Party.
Richard Moore may be reached at email@example.com