Rep. Gwen Moore (D)
Elected: 2004, 3rd term.
Born: April 18, 1951, Racine .
Education: Marquette U., B.A. 1978.
Family: Single; 3 children.
Elected office: WI Assembly, 1989-92; WI Senate, 1992-2004; Senate pres. pro tem, 1997-98.
Professional Career: Housing and urban dev. specialist, 1985-89.
The congresswoman from the 4th District is Gwen Moore, a Democrat elected in 2004 and Wisconsin’s first African-American member of Congress. Moore was born in Racine, the eighth of nine children, and raised on the north side of Milwaukee. As an 18-year-old college freshman, she became a single mother who relied on welfare to help support her daughter. She graduated from Marquette University and worked as a housing and urban development specialist. Moore said she got active in politics when a rent-to-own center repossessed her washer and dryer even though she had paid three times their value in exorbitant interest rates. She led an effort to establish a community credit union. She was elected to the state House in 1988 and to the state Senate in 1992, making her the state’s first black woman senator.
|Gwen Moore (D)||222,728||(88%)||($559,761)|
|Michael LaForest (I)||29,282||(12%)|
|Gwen Moore (D)||18,342||(96%)|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (71%), 2004 (70%)
In 2003, when 4th District Democrat Gerald Kleczka announced that he was retiring after 20 years, Moore became the early front-runner, but she had serious competition in the September 2004 Democratic primary from two political veterans, state Sen. Tim Carpenter and former state party Chairman Matt Flynn, both white. The candidates agreed on most issues: All three supported abortion rights, focused on jobs and economic concerns, and called for eliminating the Bush administration’s tax cuts for people with incomes exceeding $200,000 a year. In the absence of significant ideological clashes, the fallout from Milwaukee’s mayoral primary earlier that year played a role. The nonpartisan election had pitted former Rep. Tom Barrett, who is white, against acting Mayor Marvin Pratt, who wanted to become the city’s first black elected mayor. Barrett won, but the vote divided along racial lines and caused hard feelings in the black community.
Moore took advantage of the energized black voter base, and she leveraged financial support from national women’s organizations, teachers’ unions and other liberal groups. Flynn had chaired Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry’s campaign in Wisconsin, was endorsed by Kleczka, and boasted that he had backed Pratt for mayor. But he was damaged politically by his work as general counsel for the local Roman Catholic archdiocese in a priest sex-abuse scandal. Carpenter was the only openly gay member of the Senate and had the support of national gay-rights groups. Moore won 64% of the vote to 25% for Flynn and 10% for Carpenter. Flynn won the five aldermanic districts and 49% of the vote on the south side, but Moore won about 80% of the vote north of Interstate 94. In the general election, Republican Gerald Boyle tried to win over Democrats disaffected with Moore. But he got no national money, and Moore won, 70%-28%.
Some of the luster of Moore’s victory was diminished in January 2005, when her 25-year-old son was one of five Kerry campaign employees charged with slashing the tires of more than 20 vans rented by Republicans to drive voters and monitors to the polls on Election Day. Her son was sentenced to four months in jail for misdemeanor property damage.
Moore has a solidly liberal voting record. She sponsored a bill to provide funding to help low-income workers buy cars to increase their access to better jobs. In 2005, the House incorporated provisions of her SHIELD Act into the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act that would protect the identity of domestic-violence victims who receive homeless assistance. As a member of the “Out of Iraq” caucus, Moore considered voting against the 2007 war funding bill, but at the urging of Appropriations Chairman David Obey, D-Wis., she voted for it as well as for a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops.
Moore has developed an interest in foreign relations and defense but has said she wants to focus on a few issues or “you have little or no credibility, because you’re just all over the place.” In 2006, she was arrested along with other members of the Congressional Black Caucus at the Sudanese Embassy, where they were protesting genocide in Darfur. She was one of only five House members to vote against a resolution expressing congressional support for Israel during its 2008 military actions in the Gaza Strip. She called Israel a “strong ally” but expressed concern about civilian Palestinian deaths and called for renewed diplomatic efforts in the region. In November 2008, she was elected vice chairwoman of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues, a group comprised of women serving in the House. And she was the first representative from Wisconsin to endorse Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Moore, who said she is learning Spanish to help her reach out to the Hispanic population on Milwaukee’s south side, appears well established in her district and was re-elected with 88% of the vote in 2008.