Baldwin campaign gets boost from women’s groups, gay rights advocates

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Photo: Tammy Baldwin addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C.. Baldwin would be the first openly gay senator if elected. / J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Female candidates often get support from women and related advocacy groups for their campaigns.

And when a candidate is female and gay? An entirely new demographic offers its support, said Dave Wegge, a political science professor at St. Norbert College in De Pere.

People like “contributing to candidates that share (their) views on issues, and want that person in decision-making circles,” Wegge said.

If elected to the United States Senate, Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin of Madison, would be the nation’s first openly gay senator. As a result, lobbying groups with interests in line with hers are contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to support her campaign.

Women Vote!, an affiliate of EMILY’s List, which works to elect Democratic women who support abortion rights, has spent $791,590 running ads against former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson, Baldwin’s Republican opponent, according to Open Secrets, a website that tracks political contributions.Women Vote! also spent $164,067 on ads that support Baldwin.

That is more than the group has spent on any other race in the country.

Two of the most significant donors to Women Vote! are the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, which has donated $325,000 to the group, and LPAC, a group that works to help advance lesbian interests, which gave $112,000, according to its website.

The most recent ad from Women Vote! was a $350,000 buy which attacks Thompson for his ties to lobbyists and accuses him of fattening his wallet with his corporate connections.

Wegge said women are more likely to be Democrats and see social issues differently than men. They are generally more supportive of social welfare, homosexuality, stringent environmental sanctions, are in favor of abortion rights and support more funding for education, he said.

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund donated to Baldwin’s primary and general election campaigns as well.

“All contributors are naturally rational decision makers, they also put money where they think a candidate has an opportunity to win,” Wegge said. “The race was dead even and turned toward Baldwin in the last weeks, that’s playing a role as well. EMILY’s List, they are targeting certain races, they have a finite amount of money. They are going to put up money where they think a candidate can win. They’re sending a signal they think she’s got a real opportunity of winning.”

The most recent Marquette Law School poll showed Baldwin leading Thompson, 50-41. The poll was conducted Sept. 13-16, and has a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points, and is a complete reversal of the same poll’s results last month.

Neither Baldwin’s nor Thompson’s campaign responded to a message seeking comment.

The majority of Thompson’s financial support has come from business interests and he received a handful of assistance during his tough primary race. The Club for Growth Action has spent more than $1.6 million on the Wisconsin senate race, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has spent more than $1.5 million in ads against Baldwin.

According to Open Secrets, more than $4.5 million has been spent against the Thompson campaign, and $2.6 million against the Baldwin campaign.

—Originally published Green Bay Press-Gazette, October 2013

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