Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Brody's Notes... Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin: "This campaign next year will not be about me."

Representative Tammy Baldwin
By Linsey Pecikonis | COLUMBUS, OHIO -- Following her video taped announcement yesterday that she would be a candidate for the U. S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring U. S. Senator Herb Kohl,(D) carried via her campaign website, YouTube and in e-mails to her supporters, openly lesbian Wisconsin Democratic Representative Tammy Baldwin told a teleconference briefing of 15 LGBTQ journalists today that;
"This campaign next year will not be about me, it will be about the middle class and the threats they are facing."
The conference, sponsored by the Victory Fund, gave Baldwin a chance to face reporters and further carry yesterday's media spotlight of her senatorial bid announcement and discuss why she should be elected as the next senator from the Badger State.
Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund stated:
"We are enormously proud that Tammy has taken this courageous step, and we will be strong supporters of her campaign. Tammy’s record in Congress proves she’ll be a fighter in the Senate for expanding fairness and freedom for all Americans and Wisconsin families will have no better advocate in Washington."
Congresswoman Baldwin has been serving Wisconsin’s 2nd District since 1999 when she was elected as the first women to represent the state on a national level. Wolfe also noted Baldwin has never shied away from her sexuality and it would seem that Wisconsin voters don’t believe being an lesbian should dictate whether or not she should be elected to the Senate. Wolfe stated that since the organization endorsed her in 1992 “she hasn’t lost a race."
Baldwin remarked;
"I’m appreciative of the tremendous support I’ve had from the LGBT community and I’m officially in.”
Baldwin decided to introduce herself to Wisconsin voters through an online video that was posted yesterday from her campaign website. This past summer she had traveled throughout the state listening to its voters.  She said,
“As I’ve traveled around this summer people have told me again and again how disgusted they are with what’s going on in Washington and in Madison. They tell me that they just don’t think that anyone is listening to their immediate concerns on the economy and on jobs.  The middle class is getting slammed in this current economic crisis.”
While Baldwin told the journalists that her largest hurdle in the state is name recognition (which is roughly at 52-55% depending on the poll), she emphasized the weary fate of the economy will be her major focus.  A recent Gallup poll showed increased frustration across the Nation with how Congress handled the debt deal and other economic issues in August.  75% of those surveyed in the most recent poll believed that the economy will continue to get worse with only 20% having a positive outlook for the economy.  
Congresswoman Baldwin is no political outsider,  her plan to stabilize the economy and create jobs will be a deciding factor for voters in November 2012.  
“It will be a tough race as Wisconsin is pretty evenly divided,” Baldwin said.  “but Wisconsinites are looking to elect someone who will go to Washington and be a fighter.  If voters look at my record in they house, they will learn that I have taken on incredibly tough challenges. I stood up and opposed the war in Iraq and I’ve stood up against Wall Street. I have shown a lifetime commitment for equality for all - I’m a fighter and I will continue to stand up to special interests.”  
With Wisconsin’s unemployment continuing to rise (it rose to 7.8% in July), voters will be expecting its Senate candidates to bring more than just empty rhetoric to the campaign.  As voters across the country continue to ask, “Where are the Jobs?”,  Baldwin said she believes she has a bold vision to spur job development in the state.  
When asked about how she will handle voters frustration with how the debt deal was handled Baldwin replied,
“I’m in that 80 percent who are disgusted about how things have been handled.  I feel that frustration and anger that Wisconsinites feel toward the economic problems and how [elected officials] in Washington and Madison are not listening.” She continued, “so many people believe that our best says are behind us, but we have to have optimism.   We can’t give up on what is offered by having a democracy that can change.”
She has reflected on her time in Congress representing South Central Wisconsin noting:
“I’ve been very successful working across party lines to get things done and being effective. I will continue to do that when elected to the Senate.”
Unfortunately, the political outlook isn't quite so positive.  Job market conditions across the Nation deteriorated for the second month in a row.  Gallup poll released their Job Creation index and the numbers paint a bleak picture of the potential for more jobs in the upcoming months.  The job creation index fell to +13 in August, down from +14 in July and +15 in June.  New hiring is at about the level it was during the 2008 recession.

Baldwin, as someone who has served as Wisconsin’s 2nd district representative in the Nation’s Capital for over 12 years, cannot claim to be a Washington outsider.  However, her feels that her vision on job creation and the economy and her strong progressive voting record in the House will stand for itself.  The question remains, will Wisconsin voters believe in Baldwin’s record as much as the Wisconsin LGBTQ community has expressed belief in her.
When asked by Edge Media's senior political reporter Mike Lavers how she or her campaign would respond to homophobia from within Wisconsin or outside the Badger State, she did not directly answer instead saying:
"I am opposed to discrimination in any form and believe in equal opportunity for all Americans... and equal opportunities for all and I make no apologies for that."
Former Republican Congressman Mark Neumann, who has already declared his candidacy in the race for the seat being vacated by the retiring Herb Kohl, according to Lavers reportledly told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in 1997 that he would not hire an openly gay employee because the "gay and lesbian lifestyle is unacceptable."
When pressed for an answer in a follow-up question on the same subject by Washington Blade senior political correspondent Chris Johnson, Baldwin answered;
"To the extent that I'm faced with it in my campaign, I plan on responding very directly," Baldwin said. "The campaign is unfolding across the country, but to the extent that it is raised in the U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin, I am certainly not going to turn the other way."
Johnson then asked whether she'll promote LGBT rights, particularly the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, while on the campaign trail.  Baldwin responded saying she has been talking about such issues in the context of larger discussions, noting that  Wisconsin in 1982 was the first state to enact protections based on sexual orientation.
"When I talk about the proud tradition of the state of Wisconsin and labor and equal rights — they are all in the same conversation," Baldwin said. "People in Wisconsin feel proud of those firsts, all of them, and view them as interlinked. That's the same sort of way, I think, at the national level that we weave these things together."