Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin claimed victory in Wisconsin’s hotly contested U.S. Senate race, defeating former Gov. Tommy Thompson by a small margin and helping her Democratic Party hold on to its narrow national majority.
Baldwin, at her Election Night gathering in Madison, by then a victory part, said, "Thank you, thank you, thank you," to her supporters there and around the state just before 11:30 p.m.
“It's that battle for Wisconsin's middle class that this has all been about since this journey began 14 months ago,” Baldwin said. "Everywhere that I've gone in our beautiful state, people have told me that they want a senator who will listen to the middle class when they need help... A senator who will wake up every morning and fight for the middle class.
"They've told me that they want an economy in which everyone plays by the same rules and everyone does their fair share. They've told me that they want a level playing field, one where China can't cheat our workers and millionaires cant' dodge taxes and Wall Street can't trash our economy with risky gambling."
Baldwin also said in her victory speech she was "well aware" that she is not only the first woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate from Wisconsin but also the only openly gay person ever elected to that body in the United States.
But, "I didn’t run to make history," Baldwin said. "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 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.
"But in choosing me to tackle those challenges, the people of Wisconsin have made history."
In a concession that followed quickly, Thompson, for the first time on the losing end of an election, said of his supporters, “Not the way I planned it. I let them down by not winning, I love them all so very much.”
“I’ve never campaigned harder. What a group of people who helped out. “Thanks to everyone who just worked so hard.”
“I ran, ladies and gentlemen," Thompson said, "because I love this country and this state. I believe so much the fact that we are so fortunate to be Americans and have the opportunity to have the liberty and freedom to do whatever we want to do.”
Of the outcomes, Thompson was magnanimous.
“He’s our president. I hope he will lead our country in the right direction,” he said of President Obama's win.
Toward Baldwin, he said: “I congratulate our senator, but she wasn’t my first choice. I hope she serves our state well.”
In conclusion – and in conclusion of his political career, apparently, as he said he wouldn't run again – Thompson said, "We fought the good fight, and we came up short. But that doesn't mean we should stop fighting for our principles, ideals, and beliefs."
Wisconsin win solidifies Democratic Senate hold
Baldwin rode to victory with President Barack Obama as he won Wisconsin and the nation. But she had been polling behind the president and her victory came only some time after his had been declared.
Baldwin’s win widens a thin Democratic majority in the Senate as other races around the country were decided – including several more in favor of the Democrats in states such as Virginia, Missouri and Indiana.
Baldwin and Thompson ran the most expensive U.S. Senate race in the state’s history, with about $50 million spent from reported sources and more from secretive super-PACs.
Going into Election Day, Democrats held 51 seats plus the support of two independents, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who caucus with them. The Republican Party held 47 seats.
In all, 33 positions were up for grabs, 21 held by Democrats, both Lieberman’s and Sanders’, and 10 held by Republicans. Lieberman did not seek re-election and his open seat was among those some considered in doubt for the Democrats.
As the elections played out, it appeared that the Democrats would not only keep control of the Senate but would likely gain seats as final returns came in.