Democrat woman becomes first openly gay US senator

Tammy Baldwin today became the first openly gay senator in the US history when she defeated former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson.

"I am honoured and humbled and grateful, and I am ready to get to work - ready to stand with Barack Obama, and ready to fight for Wisconsin's middle class," said Baldwin to raucous cheers at her victory party.

Although 50-year-old Democrat Representative Baldwin made history after becoming the first openly gay senator-elect in US history, her sexual orientation was largely a non-issue in the race, the Huffington Post reported.

Thompson's political director had tweeted a message in September, deriding Baldwin's "heartland values," accompanied by a video of Baldwin dancing at an LGBT pride parade.
"Now, I am well aware that I will have the honour to be Wisconsin's first woman US senator. And I am well aware I will be the first openly gay member of the United States Senate," Baldwin said.

"But I didn't run to make history," she added.
"I ran to make a difference – a difference in the lives of families struggling to find work and pay the bills, a difference in the lives of students worried about debt and seniors worried about their retirement security, a difference in the lives of veterans who fought for us and need someone fighting for them and their families when they return home from war, a difference in the lives of entrepreneurs trying to build a business and working people trying to build some economic security," she said.

Earlier, in his victory speech, US President Barack Obama said: "It doesn't matter whether you're black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you're willing to try."

During his four-way Republican party's primary race, Thompson was long considered the front-runner.

Thompson was a popular governor in the state who later served as President George W Bush's Health and Human Services Secretary and enjoyed high name-recognition in the state.

However, his strategy of portraying Baldwin as a far-left liberal faltered. When he tried to go after her for not being strong enough in speaking out against Iran, Thompson's own investments in companies that do business with Iran became a bigger issue.

Baldwin will be succeeded in her House seat by state Assemblyman Mark Pocan, a Democrat who is also openly gay.

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