Wisconsin has elected the first openly gay US Senator in the form of Democratic Representative Tammy Baldwin. Baldwin defeated former Governor Tommy Thompson at the end of the most expensive Senate race in Wisconsin’s history.
The two candidates raised a combined $65 million, but all of the money did not help Thompson to victory, reports Yahoo! News. The former governor conceded the race around midnight.
Baldwin’s win is yet another blow to Republicans who suffered defeat when President Obama was re-elected as President. The GOP needed a net gain of four seats to take the US Senate majority.
Instead, Democrats were able to take over hotly contested Republican seats in Indiana and Massachusetts. Whey were also able to hold on to most of the states they already held, including Wisconsin and Virginia.
The first openly gay Senator will assume the seat of retiring Democrat Herb Kohl, who served four terms in the Senate. Baldwin, 50, who was first elected to Congress in 1998, will also become the first woman senator from Wisconsin with her Tuesday victory.
While her designation as the first openly gay senator is historically significant, Tammy Baldwin’s sexual orientation was never a major topic on the campaign trail. Herndon Graddick, president of the gay rights organization GLAAD, stated:
“Tammy Baldwin’s victory showed what a majority of Americans already know: that candidates should be judged on their qualifications for the job and not their sexual orientation.”
ABC News notes that Baldwin stated to her supporters during her victory speech:
“Now, I am well aware that I will have the honor of being Wisconsin’s first woman senator. And I am well aware that I will be the first openly gay member. But I didn’t run to make history. I ran to make a difference.”
If Thompson had won, then Republicans would have been able to hold two Senate seats in Wisconsin for the first time since the 1950s. But Thompson called Baldwin and conceded what had been an incredibly tight race. Baldwin stated:
“Tommy and I didn’t always agree—in fact, in this campaign we didn’t agree in much. But there can be no doubt that he shares my love and all of our love in Wisconsin. Tonight I want to reach out to his supporters and ask them to join me in standing up for our belief that we are all in this together.”
The race between Baldwin and Thompson was also one of the most expensive Senate races in the country. Along with the money the candidates put together, outside groups spent more than $40.2 million in the state.