Bay Area boost in Senate bid
by Matthew S. Bajko
The primary to decide her Republican opponent for a U.S. Senate seat is less than a week away, but lesbian Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) is already being pummeled with attack ads paid for by outside groups.
Polls in the race to succeed Democratic Senator Herb Kohl, who opted to retire from Congress this year, have consistently shown Baldwin either in a dead heat or with a slight lead over the field of GOP candidates.
Hedge fund manager Eric Hovde, former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, Wisconsin state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, and former Congressman Mark Neumann are pitted against each other in the increasingly bitter GOP primary, which will take place Tuesday, August 14.
Polls show that political newcomer Hovde has a slight edge heading into the primary this month, but Thompson has long been considered the favorite to win.
As of now whichever of the GOP candidates survives the primary appears to have a bit of a hill to climb in order to defeat the seven-term congresswoman.
The latest telephone survey of likely voters in the state, conducted in late July by GOP-leaning Rasmussen Reports, showed Baldwin with 45 percent to 48 percent of the vote regardless of which Republican she is matched against. She leads by margins ranging from three to 10 points.
Whoever is the winner of the intraparty fight will try to keep Baldwin from making history in the November 6 election. Should she win the seat, Baldwin, 50, will become the first openly LGBT person elected to the U.S. Senate. She would also be the first female senator from Wisconsin.
She will have achieved that historic milestone partly due to a boost from Bay Area donors, who not only have been contributing cash to her campaign coffers but also are planning to travel to the Midwest this fall to help her achieve victory.
From former high school and college friends now living in northern California to local LGBT elected officials and community leaders, a small army of Bay Area volunteers is expected to descend on Wisconsin in the months prior to the November election to work on Baldwin's campaign.
"If I am anywhere in the fall, I will take a week and a half of vacation to stump somewhere for Tammy Baldwin," said Neil Giuliano, CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and a former mayor of Tempe, Arizona. "Tammy is a friend, I have known her a long time."
Giuliano already has pitched in for Baldwin's bid by co-hosting fundraisers in both San Francisco and Arizona. According to federal campaign contribution records, he has given Baldwin $1,000 toward her Senate bid.
"I think she has a great shot to be the first out lesbian member of the U.S. Senate," he said in an interview with the Bay Area Reporter this summer. "If the campaign calls, I will go wherever."
Former District 8 Supervisor Bevan Dufty, now a mayoral aide working on homelessness, is also planning to pitch in for Baldwin and has already donated $500 to her campaign. He told the B.A.R. that as a member of San Francisco's Democratic County Central Committee he plans to "recruit teams" to head to Wisconsin and other battleground states this fall.
Baldwin has already benefited from Bay Area pocketbooks. She has visited the region a number of times this year for fundraisers. The most recent event took place two weekends ago at the home of Naomi Fine and Kathy Levinson, a co-chair of the National Finance Committee of Obama for America.
"Tammy is a proven champion progressives everywhere are proud to support," read the invite posted to Facebook.
Baldwin's Bay Area fundraising swings have largely gone under the radar, however, as her campaign has not sought to publicize them. One reason for the low profile is due to the criticism she has received back home from her opponents for the amount of money she has raised outside of Wisconsin.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Baldwin as of July 9 had raised 68 percent of her Senate bid contributions from out of state. The haul amounted to more than $1.2 million, compared to the nearly $569,000 Baldwin had collected from Wisconsin residents, according to data compiled by the center.
While the political watchdog group ranked Baldwin's base of Madison, Wisconsin as the top metro area in terms of contributions, accounting for $363,225, it lists San Francisco in fifth place with $122,544.
Baldwin's local donors include former San Francisco Supervisor Roberta Achtenberg ($1,000), a lesbian who serves on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights; longtime gay rights advocate and donor Alvin Baum ($3,250); Judy Dlugacz class=st>, president and founder of lesbian cruise company Olivia ($2,500); and Democratic fundraiser Susie Tompkins Buell ($3,000).
"The contributions are really, really helping," Baldwin told a crowd of LGBT donors at a San Francisco fundraiser held in March at the home of lesbian former Supervisor Leslie Katz.
She also jokingly asked those with family or friends back in Wisconsin to consider making a trip there before Election Day to talk to them about her candidacy.
"If any of you want to come visit your families between now and November 6, please do. If not, please send them postcards saying, "Wish you were here. But since you are not, please consider voting for Tammy Baldwin."
For those not from her home state, Baldwin asked that they spread the word via Facebook about her Senate bid and ask friends and loved ones to check out her website at http://www.tammybaldwin.com.
"That is how we will spread the word and grow the interest in the campaign from across the country," she said.