First openly gay senator may be elected in November.

It’s so wonderful to be alive as the tides of history change.

It’s three weeks before the election and Baldwin’s narrowly winning a race she was supposed to lose. The Wisconsin seat is being vacated by Democrat Herb Kohl, an elfin retail-store tycoon who funded his own campaigns with the slogan “Nobody’s Senator but Yours.” (Republicans liked to shorten that to “Nobody’s Senator.”) The Republican candidate is Tommy Thompson, who won his first election in 1966, and won a fourth and final term as governor in 1998 by a 21-point landslide before becoming George W. Bush’s secretary of Health and Human Services. Six months ago, most projections of a GOP Senate takeover assumed that Thompson would defeat the liberal congresswoman from Madison.

“It’s a closer race than I would have hoped for,” says Sen. Ron Johnson, the Republican who beat Russ Feingold in the 2010 wave. “The polls show Tammy Baldwin ahead, and I don’t think anybody was expecting that.”

Thompson is 70 years old and looks it, and has adapted to the YouTube/Twitter era of campaigns with all the grace of Bobby Knight after a foul call. Baldwin is a natural. She’s also a lesbian. And nobody in Wisconsin thinks that’s hurt her. Scott Walker’s state may elect the first openly gay senator in American history, and it’s a total nonissue. It might even be helping Baldwin.

Ironically, the first black senator (Hiram Revels) was elected out of the state of Mississippi.  Being around when an openly gay senator is elected will be of equal historical relevance.  It’s a pity that this moment is getting lost beneath the din of the Presidential election.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • invivoMark

    Huh, I had no idea she was gay. She’s a good speaker, intelligent, seems to have solid values, and I was gonna vote for her anyway.

    To be sure, Madison is a very gay-friendly city. Gay couples walking around downtown openly holding hands is definitely not an unusual sight, so I’d be quite surprised if being gay hurt Tammy at all around here. In the rest of Wisconsin, however….

  • Carrie

    I hope she wins!! Yay Dems!!

  • John Horstman

    At first, I was all, “First gay senator? Really? Who?” Oh, right, it’s our guy; I always forget Baldwin is gay, since I think of her primarily in the context of being one of our House reps. and not in terms of LGBT activism or visibility. Yeah, we’re excited she’s been polling so well, especially since she’s a real progressive. As we had to lose Feingold last round, I’d be happy to gain Baldwin this round to replace the lackluster Kohl.

    Not-quite-related anecdote: I had my picture taken with Kohl a little over 20 years ago when I was a little kid at the UW – Milwaukee day care center and he was campaigning. He had the picture hanging in his Senate office reception area, and some friends of mine (also from Milwaukee) stopped by his office on a trip to D.C. They commented on the picture and wound up having lunch with him. I think they squandered the lobbying opportunity. Strange connections we make throughout our lives.