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Baldwin extends list of firsts with Senate victory

Associated Press Published: November 7, 2012

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Tammy Baldwin is used to firsts.

Back in 1998, she was the first woman elected to represent Wisconsin in the House and the first gay non-incumbent ever sent to Congress.

On Tuesday, she added to those distinctions with her victory in Wisconsin's Senate race, becoming the state's first female senator and the first openly gay candidate ever elected to the chamber.

And she won by holding off a political comeback by popular former Gov. Tommy Thompson who had never lost a statewide race.

"I didn't run to make history," a jubilant Baldwin told screaming supporters after acknowledging the dual firsts she had achieved. "I ran to make a difference."

Coupled with the fact that President Barack Obama carried Wisconsin on his way to re-election, Baldwin's victory was a blow to the state's resurgent GOP, even though the Senate seat has been under Democratic control since 1957, when Communist-hunter Joe McCarthy died in office.

A sullen Thompson, surrounded by his family and Walker, said he wasn't "going to go away," though the loss likely spells the end of a storied career in politics that began in 1966 and included 14 years as governor and a brief run for president in 2007.

It was a bruising battle. The race was the most expensive Senate campaign in state history, costing more than $65 million, much of it spent on sharply negative ads.

A noticeably subdued Thompson thanked his supporters who gathered in a suburban Milwaukee hotel.

"I'm not going to go away, but I'm not going to run again," he said, adding that he had "never campaigned harder."

During the race, some of his backers complained that Thompson wasn't trying hard enough to win and said he should have spent more time in the public eye.

Baldwin insisted that Thompson no longer spoke for Wisconsin residents, noting that he spent seven years in the private sector making millions of dollars off connections he established while serving as governor and U.S. health and human services secretary.

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