MADISON (WKOW) – In the aftermath of democratic U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin’s double-digit victory Tuesday over Republican challenger Leah Vukmir, she sits down with 27 News to talk about the path to victory, her priorities, and the intersection of personal life and public policy.
Sen. Baldwin: “People didn’t start organizing around Tammy Baldwin in the spring of last year but they were organizing around protecting their health care, protecting a loved one who has a pre-existing health condition who might lose their insurance.”
Q: What can you and others do in Washington to ensure that pre-existing conditions…will be retained in some form if there are continued attempts to alter the Affordable Care Act?
Baldwin: “I think the focal point will be actually not as much on the Congress because there will be the ability to stop legislation but the focal point will be on states…and finally take the Medicaid dollars that work in partnership with the federal government that Scott Walker refused to take. That will be a very positive step forward.”
Q: Do you think that will happen, because Republican legislators in the statehouse have said, over their dead bodies, in essence?
Baldwin: “You know, I think it will.”
Q: Will President Trump work with you?
Baldwin: “If he wants to have legislative accomplishments, there is no other way. I am hopeful we can get back to a place where working with a democratically-led house, we can get some real things done for Wisconsin.”
Q: Senator, do you look at yourself now as perhaps the leader of this Wisconsin Democratic party whose coattails helped accomplish many objectives?
Baldwin: “Well, I would start by saying we ran a really terrific campaign…Tony Evers, Mandela Barnes, Josh Kaul, Sara Godlewski, and if we helped bring it over the finish line, I am really, really proud of that.”
Q: This election saw unprecedented gains with people of color and the LGBTQ community making gains. Do you feel you contributed to that in the sense of your openness?
Baldwin: “I was young and thinking about the prospect of being involved in public service, you know, I questioned if it would even be possible as an out member of the LGBT community…I also wondered if it would be possible in what was then the man’s world of politics, right? What I want to say about today is you know, I get choked up when I think about it: all the young women, all the young people in the LGBTQ community, young people of color who come up to me and say, ‘You made my involvement seem possible, I’m doing this because I want my voice to be heard’ .”
Q: In this campaign, for the first time, you shared another personal side to yourself, and that’s your mother’s challenges with mental health.
Baldwin: “So many people said that they thought things would only change when families starting speaking out and telling their stories…and yes, it was a really important election for people finding their voice and their power…It’s hard to do that if everyone’s secretive and feeling stigmatized about it. We’re only going to make stronger progress if we tackle this as communities and as a state and as a nation.”