Wisconsin could elect first openly gay woman to U.S. senate

The recall of Governor Scott Walker has dominated national reporting on Wisconsin. But there is another very interesting Wisconsin race to watch. Longtime incumbent Democrat Herb Kohl is retiring and openly gay, progressive Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) is running for his seat. Former Republican Governor Tommy Thompson is running in the Republican primary as a moderate against Tea Party endorsed and “true conservative,” former congressman Mark Neumann. Conservative Republican Senators Rand Paul and Jim DeMint are backing Neuman, but moderate Thompson is probably the only candidate who has a chance of beating Baldwin. According to Huffington Post, Baldwin will be a formidable candidate, having raised more than $1 million in the fourth quarter of last year, compared with Thompson’s $656,504.

If the Walker recall is successful, it will give Democrats momentum in the Senate race. Even worse for Republicans, Walker has been under investigation for almost 20 months for using public funds for his campaign, which is a felony. If convicted he will end up in prison. Darlene Wink, a former state employee has just pleaded guilty and offered prosecutors information in exchange for not having to serve time. Walker, in deep trouble for possibly destroying evidence, recently hired two criminal lawyers to work on his defense. Politiscoop reports:

Darlene Wink plead guilty this afternoon to two misdemeanor counts of illegal fundraising and political work for former Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker’s campaign for governor while being paid by the tax payers. Wink told the Circuit Court “What I was doing was putting together fliers that were for a fundraiser”.

Wink provided testimony in order to avoid jail time. Her plea deal comes with the agreement that she will provide information to prosecutors in regard to the ongoing John Doe investigation. Even though Wink will serve no jail time, her sentencing has been delayed for three months, allowing prosecutors to question Wink further. . .

Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate commented following Darlene Wink’s Tuesday’s guilty plea stating:

“The guilty plea by a Scott Walker aide, who is cooperating with the ongoing John Doe probe, is the clearest evidence yet of the culture of corruption built to benefit Scott Walker on his crooked path from Milwaukee to Madison. In the coming weeks and months we will learn more about what Scott Walker knew and when he knew it. This much is clear: No governor in modern times has been so closely linked to political corruption and today’s guilty plea punctuates that. The people of Wisconsin have every right to be afraid that Walker has brought this criminal culture with him to Madison.”

The extreme policies of Walker, not to mention his possible criminal indictment, have tarnished the Wisconsin Republican brand. Independents and some Republicans who voted for Walker, including union police and firefighters, are having buyer’s remorse. In the dead of winter, dedicated, highly motivated Democrats collected over 1,000,000 signatures to recall Walker, twice what they needed. While they were at it, they collected enough signatures to recall Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, and Wisconsin senate majority leader Scott Fitzgerald. They are hell bent on getting rid of Walker and his ilk.

Wisconsin has the usual rural urban split with traditionally conservative rural areas voting Republican and Milwaukee and Madison voting Democratic. Even with disaffected independents and Republican public union members switching sides, the race will be close. Walker, heavily funded by movement conservatives like the Koch brothers, has spent over $10,000,000 in advertising over the last few months to try to keep his job, plus he is doing everything he can to challenge the recall and suppress the vote. So, Wisconsin Democrats know that nothing can be taken for granted.

In a state unhappy with the radical policies of Scott Walker, it seems only a moderate Republican like Thompson has a chance of winning.  But with a highly motivated and angry Democratic base in a traditionally liberal state, we may end up with a new progressive senator, which as a nation we desperately need, and the first out lesbian senator in the history of the Unites States.

On Wisconsin!