Grand Divisions

Tennessee Equality Project seeks to advance and protect the civil rights of our State’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and their families in each Grand Division.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Who will be Tennessee's Tammy Baldwin?

If you've been on Facebook today you've probably seen several announcements from different organizations and news outlets that Wisconsin Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin is officially running for the United State Senate.  If elected, she would be the first out member of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community to hold this office.  A Baldwin victory would be significant, not just in terms of the historical achievement, but also because it would help significantly in the fight against DOMA, for ENDA, and for a host of other equality legislation that is now bottled up.  It's also significant that her candidacy emerges at a time when Wisconsin has seen attacks on domestic partnerships and organized labor from Governor Scott Walker and the Legislature.

Little noted in all the media coverage is how she got her start in politics.  She started at the local level:

 Tammy Baldwin served four terms as a Dane County (WI) Supervisor (1986-1994), representing the downtown Madison area, including the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus. In 1986, Tammy also served briefly on the Madison Common Council, filling an aldermanic vacancy. She served three terms as a WI State Representative for the 78th Assembly District (comprising central and south Madison) from January 1993 to January 1999.

That's right.  She started in city and county government and advanced to the Legislature and then to Congress in a methodical progression to higher office.

Lessons for Tennessee:  We seen the election of a lesbian judge in the Memphis area and a gay man  to the Metro Council in Nashville, but we've never elected an out member of our community to a legislative body in a competitive race.  Candidates continue to run in Nashville, getting closer all the time, but we need more members of our community to do what Congresswoman Baldwin did--start local.

We're behind the curve in Tennessee, but not hopelessly so.  There's no time like the present if you're interested in starting.  Tennessee boasts several campaign board members of the Victory Fund who would love to see more viable candidates from our community running for office.  The key is to start early and get the help you need.  I know that TEP PAC, our state political action committee, is also interested in helping good candidates throughout the state. 

If you're thinking about running for office and want to talk, contact us at  Let's start the conversation and find Tennessee's Tammy Baldwin.

-Chris Sanders

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