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Meet Tammy Baldwin’s opponent for U.S. Senate: Tommy Thompson

CHRIS JOHNSON | Washington Blade
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
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The build up over whom lesbian U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin will face in the general election came to an end Tuesday night when Wisconsin voters gave the GOP nomination to former Gov. Tommy Thompson.

The Associated Press called the election for Thompson at around 11:30 p.m. ET. According to WisconsinVote.org — a project of Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television — Thompson had 34.6 percent of the vote with around 81 percent of precincts reporting.

Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson.

The GOP candidate who came closest was hedge fund manager Eric Hovde, who had 30.4 percent of the vote. Former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann had 22.8 percent while Wisconsin Assembly Speaker had 12.2 percent.

On the same night, Baldwin officially claimed the Democratic nomination in her pursuit of the U.S. Senate seat in Wisconsin. The designation means she’s the first openly gay person to have a major party’s nomination in a contest for a U.S. Senate seat.

Thompson has a long history of service in public office. He served as Wisconsin’s governor from from 1987 to 2001 and was secretary of health and human services under former President George W. Bush. In 2008, Thompson sought the Republican nomination to run for the White House, but dropped out early in his bid.

Thompson’s victory in the Republican primary is probably the worst outcome for Baldwin because the former governor is popular in his state and was seen as a moderate candidate with the greatest appeal to the mainstream voters. Still, he didn’t have the self-financing capability of Hovde, who funded 92 percent of his campaign with millions of his own money.

Arguably, Thompson was the least opposed to LGBT rights of the four major Republican candidates in the running. During an interview with Wisconsin’s CBS 58 earlier this year, he said marriage should be left to the states and he backs the Defense of Marriage Act, but stopped short of endorsing a Federal Marriage Amendment for the U.S. Constitution.

“I believe very strongly in the Defense of the Marriage Act,” Thompson said. “Marriage is one man and one woman. I support that. That’s the federal law. I’m a little gun shy of people saying, ‘We got to have constitutional amendments for this or that. I happen to like our Constitution, and, I think, you should not be going around amending constitutions.”

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