Tuesday night, Tammy Baldwin won her election to become the first openly gay U.S. senator, Maine and Maryland and possibly Washington became the first states to approve gay marriage by popular vote and Barack Obama won re-election after coming out in favor of gay marriage during the campaign. In the 2nd Congressional District seat now held by Baldwin, an openly gay state lawmaker was picked to succeed her.
But with a couple of exceptions, Baldwin’s sexual orientation did not receive much notice during her campaign. Despite her race being one of the most competitive and negative in the country, not a single television ad raised the issue and neither of the campaigns or major outside groups focused on it.
While gay marriage still isn’t legal in the state, the issue might be changing fast, according to the Marquette University Law School poll. That survey found that 44% of likely voters in the state now favor allowing gay marriage and 29% favor civil unions, compared with only 22% who feel gay and lesbian partners should receive no legal recognition.
A day after the election, experts attributed Baldwin’s victory to the coattail effect of the presidential race, her funding edge in the early going and her ability to exploit issues such as Thompson’s lucrative career in business built on government connections.
These and other factors helped Baldwin pick up votes in key counties that were instrumental to her victory.
Four big Wisconsin counties played crucial roles in Democrat Tammy Baldwin’s victory over Republican Tommy Thompson in the race for U.S. Senate.
Baldwin performed significantly better on Tuesday in Kenosha, Racine, Brown and Milwaukee counties than did fellow Democrat Russ Feingold when he lost two years ago to Republican Ron Johnson.
In Kenosha County, Baldwin took 54.2% of the vote. Feingold had 46.8% in 2010.
In Racine County, Baldwin took 51%. Feingold had 43.4%.
Baldwin and Feingold both lost to their Republican challengers in Brown County. But Baldwin’s share of the vote was 48% – up from Feingold’s 42% share.
In Milwaukee County, she increased her share of the vote to 65.7% from Feingold’s 61.3%, driven by strong voter turnout in Milwaukee for President Barack Obama.
The four counties accounted for a net swing over Feingold’s performance in 2010 of 167,462 votes.
Baldwin beat Thompson by 163,204 votes in the most expensive Senate election in Wisconsin history.