Tammy Baldwin Enters Senate Race in Wisconsin

Tammy Baldwin Enters Senate Race in Wisconsin

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - September 6, 2011

After months of speculation, Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin on Tuesday announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate. The seven-term lawmaker from Madison is the first Democrat to enter the race to succeed retiring Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl.

In a three-minute Web video emailed to supporters Tuesday morning, Baldwin positioned herself as a “progressive fighter for Wisconsin” and pinned her record to that of four-term incumbent Kohl, who announced his retirement in May, and of former Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, a prominent progressive who lost his re-election bid to Ron Johnson in 2010. Last month, Feingold declined to run again for the Senate.

“Just like Herb Kohl, I’ve made standing up for the middle class my top priority,” she said. Baldwin touted her 1999 vote, along with Feingold and others, to oppose the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, which created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and separated commercial and investment banking. "It's time politicians looked out for seniors, working families and the middle class -- instead of protecting the profits of big oil and Wall Street,” Baldwin said.

But unlike Feingold, a staunch campaign finance reform advocate, Baldwin refused to say she would discourage spending from outside groups on her behalf. "I admire and agree with Russ Feingold as a champion of campaign finance reform," Baldwin told reporters on a conference call Tuesday, referring to the legislation Feingold crafted with Sen. John McCain. But, she said, "I’m going to run a race based on the rules of the road today and will be a champion for campaign finance reform."

In her campaign video, Baldwin also reiterated her support for withdrawing from Afghanistan and her opposition to the Iraq War. And she expressed confidence in her campaign heading into what is expected to be a competitive and expensive race that could help determine whether Democrats hold their majority in the Senate.

"I'm used to facing challenges head on," she said. "When I first ran for Congress in 1998, people counted me out. But we worked hard, campaigned across south-central Wisconsin, and we won." Baldwin was the first women elected to Congress from the Badger State and if she wins next November, she would become the first openly gay senator. However, she said this status should not influence the race. "From day one I have always been open about my sexual orientation," she said on the conference call. But, "this campaign isn’t going to be about me; it is about middle class families in Wisconsin."

Baldwin, considered among the most liberal members of Congress, has expressed an interest in running for the upper chamber since Kohl announced his retirement. She enters the Democratic primary as the presumed front-runner, though that could change if Rep. Ron Kind mounts a bid.

Former Rep. Mark Neumann is the only Republican to officially enter the race, but former Gov. Tommy Thompson and state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald are expected to jump in soon. Neumann has said he expects Baldwin to win the Democratic nomination. After Baldwin announced her bid, Neumann almost immediately attacked her liberal record. "There could be no greater contrast to my own plans to cut government spending, balance the budget, and repeal ObamaCare so we can get the private sector growing again," he said in a statement. I’m a conservative, she’s a liberal - it's that simple.” A recent Public Policy Polling (D) survey showed Neumann four points ahead of Baldwin in a head-to-head matchup.

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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