Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D)
Wisconsin 2nd District
On a narrow isthmus between Lakes Mendota and Monona is the center of Madison and in many ways the center of Wisconsin. The state Capitol rises at one end of State Street, and at the other end is the main campus of the University of Wisconsin, in a beautiful, park like setting above Lake Mendota. For most of the 20th century, Wisconsin politics was dominated by the Madison-based La Follettes and their liberal Democratic successors. University faculty were devoted to former governor and senator Bob La Follette’s “Wisconsin idea” of an apolitical bureaucracy and to his Wisconsin Tax Commission and workmen’s compensation law—both firsts in the nation. Madison spawned an activist and sometimes violent student movement during the Vietnam War. A graduate student was killed in a laboratory by a bomb set off by a protester. In recent years the liberal campus opposed the welfare-reform and school-choice laws enacted while Republican Tommy Thompson was governor, and it was not entirely happy with the centrist policies of his Democratic successor, Jim Doyle. A steady debate goes on here between the very liberal Madison Capital Times and its more conservative rival, the Wisconsin State Journal; the two newspapers practice the kind of competitive journalism now seen in only a few other major cities and state capitals. This is an urban capital in the midst of farmland; the Dane County farmers’ market is the largest in the nation.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
Madison is the center of Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District, which is roughly equal parts urban, suburban and rural. It includes surrounding Dane County and dairy and alfalfa country to the north and south, as well as several rural dairy counties that have traditionally been Republican. It takes in the birthplace of the Ringling Brothers Circus in Baraboo, and the Swiss-settled town of New Glarus, known statewide for the New Glarus Brewing Company and its Fat Squirrel and Spotted Cow beers. Prairie du Sac, to the north of Madison, is home to the corporate headquarters of the rapidly expanding Culver’s fast-food chain, famous for its quintessentially Wisconsin butter burgers, with an optional side of fried cheese curds. The Wisconsin Dells, and its giant water park, has long been a family vacation destination for city dwellers.
Median family income in Madison is nearly twice the level in Milwaukee, with its shrinking job base. Local industry, rooted in the university and the state government, has proved to be recession resistant; the growth industries include health care (Madison is home to American Family Insurance) and biotechnology start-ups tied to the university. In the early 1990s, rural Dane County was open to Republicans like Thompson. But even the rural areas have become bluer as Madison-area liberals move to the countryside. The 2nd is now a very Democratic district. Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry carried it 62%-37% in 2004, and Democrat Barack Obama won it 69%-30% in 2008.
Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D)
Elected: 1998, 6th term.
Born: Feb. 11, 1962, Madison .
Education: Smith Col., A.B. 1984; U. of WI Law Schl., J.D. 1989.
Religion: No religious affiliation.
Family: Partner (Lauren Azar).
Elected office: Dane Cnty. Bd. of Supervisors, 1986-94; WI Assembly, 1992-98.
Professional Career: Practicing atty, 1989-92.
The congresswoman from the 2nd District is Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat elected in 1998 and the first woman to represent Wisconsin in Congress. Baldwin grew up in Madison, where she was raised by her mother, a University of Wisconsin student when Tammy was born, and her maternal grandparents, a UW biochemist and the theater department’s head costume designer. She graduated first in her class at Madison West High School and went on to Smith College and UW law school. In 1986, at age 24 and still in law school, she was elected to the Dane County Board of Supervisors. In 1992, she was elected to the Wisconsin Assembly, winning a heavily Democratic Madison seat. Six years later, when moderate Republican Scott Klug honored his promise to serve only four terms in the U.S. House, Baldwin got into the race, along with three other Democrats and six Republicans. As a woman who favored abortion rights, she was supported by EMILY’s List, which helped raise about one-quarter of her $1.5 million campaign chest. As an openly gay woman, Baldwin had enthusiastic support from national gay and lesbian organizations, which also helped her raise money. With 86% of Democratic primary votes cast in Dane County, Baldwin won with 37% of the vote.
|Tammy Baldwin (D)||277,914||(69%)||($1,159,588)|
|Peter Theron (R)||122,513||(31%)||($27,213)|
|Tammy Baldwin (D)||18,414||(99%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (63%), 2004 (63%), 2002 (66%), 2000 (51%), 1998 (53%)
Republicans nominated former state Insurance Commissioner Jo Musser. Baldwin roused the enthusiasm of Madison liberals in a way not seen in years. She called for a single-payer health-insurance system and suggested that Musser was captive to insurance companies. Musser, a nurse who had founded the Madison Employers Health Care Alliance, argued that a single-payer system would reduce choices and create long waiting periods for elective surgery. Both sides were well financed. Dane County went 57%-42% for Baldwin, and she won the district 53%-47%. Having come out as a lesbian during her college years, Baldwin became the first openly homosexual non-incumbent to win a seat in the House. Democrat Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the other openly gay member of the House, revealed his sexual orientation after serving several terms. The vast majority of voters, Baldwin has said, care more about her positions on issues that affect their lives than about her sexual orientation.
True to her Madison constituents, she has a strongly liberal voting record, though she prefers to be called a progressive. Her driving issue is guaranteed health care for all Americans. She sponsored the Health Security for All Americans Act to guarantee universal coverage. With a seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee and on its Health Subcommittee, she has been a leader in urging additional federal support for embryonic-stem-cell research, some of which has been done at UW. With Republican cosponsors, she introduced a bill to encourage flexibility in how the states cover the uninsured. In 2007, the House passed her bill to expand breast and cervical-cancer screening for poor and uninsured women.
Baldwin has been a leader of the opposition to a proposed constitutional amendment to bar same-sex marriages. She joined a bipartisan initiative to bar workplace discrimination against gays, reinserting a previously dropped provision in the bill to include transsexuals. The provision threatened the bill’s passage, and she eventually agreed to drop it. She also sought to broaden the definition of hate crimes to include people targeted because of gender, sexual orientation or disability. In 2008, she and Frank created the House Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality Caucus, starting with 52 members. Baldwin has faced discrimination, even as a member of Congress. In 2008, the Pentagon initially barred her life partner from traveling with her on a military flight to Europe, citing a rule that allowed only congressional spouses on such trips. Baldwin’s partner was allowed on the plane only after Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi intervened.
Baldwin was a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton in the 2008 Democratic primary, standing by Clinton until she dropped out of the race even though Baldwin’s district had backed Obama overwhelmingly in the primary. After gay-rights groups criticized Obama for his choice of evangelical Pastor Rick Warren of the Saddleback Church to deliver the invocation at his inauguration, Obama named Baldwin one of 16 honorary co-chairs of the ceremony.
Baldwin has been an outspoken opponent of the Iraq War, and she was one of only 13 House members to vote against the defense budget for fiscal 2008. She signed on as a cosponsor of Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich’s 2007 resolution to impeach former Vice President Dick Cheney for “deceptive actions leading up to the Iraq war, the revelation of the identity of a covert agent for political retaliation, and the illegal wiretapping of American citizens.” In 2008, Baldwin sponsored a bill that would end the railroad industry’s exemption from antitrust law. She has many farmers and paper manufacturers in her district who rely on shipping and have been hurt by what she calls the “antiquated railroad antitrust exemption that has allowed for skyrocketing prices and declining service for rail shippers.” The bill passed the Judiciary Committee by a voice vote despite strong industry opposition but was never put to a vote by the full House. National Journal ranked her as one of the most liberal House members in 2008.
In 2000, in her first re-election campaign, Baldwin faced Republican John Sharpless, whose ads in UW newspapers called him “our professor, our congressman, our voice.” He accused Baldwin of accomplishing little, ignoring farmers and raising most of her campaign money out of state. Baldwin won by only 51%-49%, a smaller margin than her first House election and a reversal of the usual pattern. Since then, she has secured the seat with victories of 63% or more. In 2008, she beat computer programmer Scott Theron 69%-31%.