Tag Archives: majorities

Danger list: A look at the Republican agenda for 2017

Republicans emerged from the November elections holding their greatest level of power in decades. Not only will Republicans control the White House and Congress, but the GOP also will hold 33 governors’ offices and have majorities in 33 state legislatures. A look at the GOP agenda for state legislative sessions.

ABORTION

• Ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

• Ban dilation and extraction abortions, a procedure more commonly used in the second trimester.

• Lengthen the time women must wait to have an abortion after receiving counseling about its effects.

• Block government funding from going to abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood.

BUSINESSES

• Reduce or eliminate corporate income taxes.

• Relax business regulations and professional licensing requirements.

EDUCATION

• Expand the availability of vouchers, scholarships or tax credits that allow taxpayer money to cover K-12 tuition costs at private schools.

• Expand opportunities for charter schools.

GUNS

• Allow people with concealed gun permits to carry weapons on college campuses.

• Reduce the costs for concealed gun permits and ensure that permits from one state are recognized elsewhere.

•  Allow people to carry concealed guns without needing permits or going through training.

LAWSUITS

• Limit how much money plaintiffs can win in medical malpractice and personal injury cases.

• Restrict where lawsuits can be filed in an attempt to prevent plaintiffs from bringing suit in jurisdictions perceived to be favorable.=

• Restrict who can qualify to provide expert witness testimony.

• Reduce the rates used to calculate interest on monetary judgments.

UNIONS

• Enact right-to-work laws, which prohibit workplace contracts that have mandatory union fees.

• Restrict the collective bargaining powers of public employee unions.

• Require members of public employee unions to annually affirm their desire for dues to be deducted from paychecks.

• Curtail or repeal prevailing wage laws, which set minimum pay scales on public construction projects.

On the Web

Pew’s Stateline reports.

 

 

To progressives: Make 2015 the year of no regrets

With November’s elections failing to achieve a change in leadership, the year 2014 was disappointing for progressives. 

The year did have bright spots, however. Despite Gov. Scott Walker’s and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen’s efforts to stop marriage equality in Wisconsin, it is now the law. And, in a surprising development, the U.S. Supreme Court stepped in to keep Republicans and a far-right judge from imposing a photo ID requirement mere weeks before the elections.

Looking to 2015 we are, in many ways, eerily, right back where we started four years ago — with Walker as governor and GOP legislative majorities.

The state faces a significant budget deficit, possibly in excess of $4 billion. 

Our economy remains slow in creating jobs and state wages are stagnant. 

There is a brewing attack on the middle class with rumblings of quick action to pass “right-to-work” legislation before opponents have the chance to show how these measures are wrong for Wisconsin.

And in Congress, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson continues to earn the moniker of “our dumb senator” on an alarmingly frequent basis.

So what should we expect for 2015? What challenges do progressives face? And what do we need to do to start taking our state back? 

Walker is running for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. He has shown his eyes are always on the next election and higher office, and he will do and say anything to win. No doubt he’ll use the 2015 state budget as a $70-billion campaign ad for himself. In fact, it has been reported that his campaign began conducting a poll right after the election to decide what to put in his budget plan.

It is wrong to be making decisions about how our tax dollars are spent based on what is best for Walker’s political future. And it will be our job to let everyone know about it. 

Assembly Speaker Robin “Boss” Vos gave us a preview of how he’ll operate in 2015. When asked about the possibility of state assistance for the construction of a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks, Boss Vos raised concerns that one of the owners had the temerity to meet the president of the United States when he visited Milwaukee and has made political donations to Democrats in other states.

It is wrong, not to mention illegal, for legislators to engage in pay-to-play. It will be our job to expose it when laws are decided on loyalty tests and campaign contributions rather than their merits.

The state Senate may have lost Glenn Grothman — serial basher of women, minorities and the LGBT community — but don’t expect a kinder, gentler upper house of the Wisconsin Legislature. If anything, the gang set to take the reins of power is the farthest right seen in generations.

There’s no outcry from the mainstream in Wisconsin for radical privatization of our public schools, rolling back workplace safety and benefits like sick time and overtime protection, or making women second-class citizens when it comes to their health care. But those are agendas that the GOP leadership is poised to push, and it will be our job to fight back.

In Washington, D.C., Johnson is now in the majority in the U.S. Senate. This guy has a truly stunning portfolio of off-the wall-statements — from asserting that sunspots are causing global climate change to asserting that more for-profit colleges would solve the student debt crisis.

It’s going to be our job as progressives to present the alternative to such ideas — an alternative that’s commonly referred to as reality. It’s a full-time job pointing out how Walker and Republican leaders at the state and local levels are selling us out, but as progressives we have ample opportunity to do so. 

Consider just one example of an opportunity to lead — the debt crisis of student loans. There are common-sense solutions that have and will be offered by progressives, like letting graduates refinance their student loans just as people can refinance their mortgages.

We can show that we’re on the side of the middle class and not the big banks and special interests. That we believe that if you work hard and take the personal responsibility to get an education you’ve earned a fair shot at the middle class and your share of the American dream.

And we can engage Generation X and Millennials on economic issues of primary concern to them that have a massive impact on our entire economy.

This 2014 didn’t turn out how many of us hoped, but that is the past. The future is before us and we have a choice: wallow in sorrow or spend our time and energy holding the right wing accountable and leading the fight for justice and equality.

Let’s fight back and have a 2015 with no regrets.

Scot Ross is the executive director of One Wisconsin Now, a statewide progressive advocacy organization with more than 80,000 online supporters.

We must overcome voter apathy

The midterm elections and their aftermath show the extent to which our democracy is failing. In the primary races leading up to Nov. 4, a record low of only 7 percent of Americans said they had “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in Congress. Yet nearly all incumbents survived their primary challenges.

Voters’ frustration is understandable. The 113th Congress will probably end up having passed fewer bills than any in history. With partisan wrangling rather than lawmaking now the goal of our elected officials, it seems to make little difference who’s in charge.

The Nov. 4 elections further demonstrated how checked out voters are. Turnout was the lowest in 72 years, despite the $4 billion spent on political advertising, according to Center for Responsive Politics. Of course, the advertising itself might have turned off voters. The money was spent mostly by special-interest groups on advertising that was misleading and/or focused on matters of little to no consequence.

In the aftermath of the election, political gamesmanship went winto higher gear than ever. Frustrated with gridlock and facing stronger Republican opposition in Congress, President Barack Obama issued an executive order addressing immigration reform, which the GOP has held up for six years solely for political reasons. Republicans responded by renewing their vow to continue doing everything in their power to punish the president by holding up his appointments.

No one who watches Congress can help but conclude that our legislative branch has become a useless forum of childish egos and transparent one-upmanship rather than a forum for conducting the people’s business. 

But for the one percent to whom lawmakers are actually accountable, the “gridlock” is working quite well. It maintains the status quo, which is structured to serve their interests.

In that light, voter apathy is understandable: Neither party has incentive to drain the swamp.

Still, the only way to save the government of “we the people” is to involve the people. Today’s citizens seem more interested in Monday Night Football than in their children’s futures. They haven’t considered the consequences of not having a responsive and responsible government, even as they live through those consequences on a daily basis. The more our quality of life erodes, the more the public binge-watches streaming video. 

The only hope for change is an informed and engaged electorate, one that looks beyond political agendas and demands real solutions to our potentially apocalyptic problems — problems such as growing income inequality, a disintegrating planet, a failing educational system and the spread of radical militancy.

Make it one of your New Year’s resolutions to become informed and engaged. Rather than checking out, tune in. Search for the truth under the spin. Take some time to learn the positions of your elected officials and question them. Visit sites such as votesmart.org that let you know — without commentary — how your representatives vote, how different interest groups rate them and who their major donors are.

Ultimately, the greatest threats to our future are our ignorance and apathy. The good news is that we have the power to overcome both.

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What if? Republicans mull strategy if they control Congress

Control of the House and Senate will be decided by voters today. And polls suggest that Republicans are close, very close, to achieving majorities in both chambers. So leading Republicans are turning to a matter often overlooked in campaigns: how to actually govern.

They say it will be crucial to show the GOP can legislate, lead and solve problems after years of lobbing political grenades at President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats.

If they add Senate control to their House dominance, Republicans say they will pass some bills that Obama is sure to veto, as they try to highlight their ideological differences with Democrats.

They say they also will push for changes in taxes, trade, regulations and other policies that both parties might accept.

“We have to prove in two years the Republican Congress can govern,” said Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C.

Republicans know a new majority would last only two years — assuming, that is, they first obtain it this fall by picking up at least six net seats, as many predict they will. The 2016 Senate election map is far more favorable to Democrats. The contest to replace the term-limited president will add further distractions and uncertainty.

In interviews, GOP senators talked at times of an ambitious conservative push for fewer regulations, lower taxes and other long-held priorities. But they also outlined more pragmatic, modest agendas that might avoid Obama’s veto and the filibuster powers Senate Democrats will hold even if they’re consigned to the minority.

There was virtually no talk of balancing the budget, repealing Obama’s health care law or achieving similar GOP campaign pledges that prove politically impossible in Washington. These senators noted that even small achievements will require levels of bipartisanship rarely seen these days.

“It’s very possible to get a number of things done if the president is willing to come to the table, and I believe he will,” said Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio.

Portman, a former White House budget director and U.S. trade representative, said goals should include lowering the 35 percent corporate tax rate, enhancing the president’s ability to make trade agreements, passing what he called responsible budget bills and approving the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline.

Significant numbers of Democrats and Republicans have shown interest in all these ideas, he said, and “we should focus on where we can find common ground.”

Yet these proposals, not to mention more ambitious ones, face strong pockets of resistance, mainly but not entirely from the political left.

Many environmentalists strongly oppose the Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry crude oil from Canada to Texas. Obama has blocked it, but several congressional Democrats support it.

As for lowering the corporate tax rate, the parties repeatedly have failed to resolve several issues, including where to set the new rate, how to tax U.S. companies’ overseas profits and which tax loopholes to close in exchange for a lower rate.

Prominent members of both parties say a GOP-controlled Congress could open the way to major trade deals with China, Japan and Europe. Obama has requested the power to negotiate trade agreements that Congress can approve or reject, but not cripple with amendments.

But some labor unions and Democrats oppose enhanced negotiating clout for the White House.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee hopes a GOP-run Senate would end the stalemate over trade and several other issues. “Congress would be speaking with one voice,” he said, and Republicans “would have to be in a governing mode.”

Corker hopes a Republican Congress could persuade Obama to loosen regulations and promote energy projects including the Keystone pipeline. But he said he worries that environmentalists, labor unions and other Democratic-leaning groups still hold too much sway.

“I’ve found him to be so afraid of his base,” Corker said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., says leaders of both parties must be willing to defy key supporters, and even risk their political careers, to end government gridlock.

With his re-election virtually assured, Graham has told business leaders he wants Congress to improve roads and bridges and to shore up entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare, among other things. That will require ending some tax breaks and finding new sources of revenue, which is anathema to many Republicans, he said.

“I’m willing as a Republican to violate some of the pledges we’ve all made” against tax increases, Graham said.

Such boldness is rare in Washington. That truth is repeatedly proven when talk turns to the president’s health law.

Nearly every Republican in Congress has pledged to repeal the law, and a GOP-run Senate would likely join the House in passing bills to do that. Obama would veto them, a point that would seem self-evident.

Yet no less a politician than Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky ran afoul of conservative activists when he told Fox News that Obama obviously “is not going to sign a full repeal.” McConnell said, however, that Congress may try to peel off specific pieces, such as the tax on medical devices.

Conservatives’ howls forced McConnell’s Senate staff to issue a statement saying he “is and has always been committed to the full repeal of Obamacare, and he’ll continue to lead efforts to repeal and replace it.”

Battle for U.S. Senate may be decided in the South

The South is where President Barack Obama and Democrats long have struggled, and it’s where the party’s toughest battleground will be this year in the fight for control of the U.S. Senate.

Three incumbents must face the consequences of having voted for Obama’s health care law, but Republicans first must settle primaries in several states, including a challenge to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

All but one of the potentially competitive races is in a state Obama lost in 2012, and the president remains deeply unpopular among whites in the region. Republicans are optimistic they can achieve the six-seat gain needed to retake the Senate.

Democratic Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Mark Pryor of Arkansas are on the ballot for the first time since voting for the Affordable Care Act in 2010. The law’s wobbly start and its image as a power-grab have the incumbents on the defensive, emphasizing local issues and avoiding unnecessary mention of the second-term president who leads their party.

Obama’s Gallup job approval lingers in the low 40s, and is even lower in several states with pivotal Senate races. Republicans want to feed on that and follow the same road map that carried them to a House majority in 2010, Obama’s first midterm election.

“Democrats hope this doesn’t become a national election, but we don’t think that’s the case,” said Republican National Committee spokesman Michael Short.

Democrats want the Republican primaries to project divisions and extremism. With Congress more unpopular than the president, they seek to highlight those Republican Senate candidates who are already serving in the House.

In 2012, Democrats defied early predictions and expanded their Senate majority by winning in GOP-leaning Missouri and Indiana, where conservative candidates tripped over their own pronouncements on rape and other issues.

A look at Senate races across the South:

• Arkansas sets up as a proxy for the tussle between the White House and House Republicans. Pryor, whose father served as governor and U.S. senator, is the last remaining Democrat in the state’s Capitol Hill delegation. His Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, is a young conservative favorite.

Cotton and Pryor avoided primaries. Cotton voted with GOP leaders in October to end the partial federal government shutdown, but Democrats say they can paint him as extreme. They’re already pointing to his vote against the new farm bill.

Arkansas voters, who give Obama a 35 percent approval rating, have seen a barrage of ads reminding them that Pryor was “the last vote” on the health care bill.

• In Georgia, where Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss is retiring, a May primary is almost certain to lead to a runoff.

Three congressmen – Jack Kingston and doctors Phil Gingrey and Paul Broun – each says his record proves his conservative bona fides.

Kingston, chairman of a House Appropriations subcommittee, tells voters what he’s cut in the federal budget.

Gingrey’s slogan is “Repeal or go home,” and he’s banking on his opposition to the president’s health law carrying the day.

Broun, who once declared evolutionary theory “lies straight from the pit of hell,” says his colleagues are poseurs. He tried to prove his conservative credentials by holding a drawing for an AR-15 military style rifle.

Karen Handel, a former secretary of state and commission chairman in Georgia’s most populous county, says she’s got the right experience for the job, and without the blemish of serving in Congress.

Former Dollar General and Reebok CEO David Perdue, the cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue, says business experience should trump the lot of “career politicians,” and he’s said he’s willing to finance his own race.

The Democratic favorite is Michelle Nunn, the daughter for former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn. Democrats are confident that she can pull in just enough Mitt Romney voters – rural and small-town whites fond of her father, and suburban white women in metropolitan Atlanta – for an upset.

• In Kentucky, McConnell finds himself criticized from the left and right. Wealthy businessman Matt Bevin may be a long shot in the Republican primary, but he’s got enough organization and money to grab attention as he brands McConnell a capitulator to Obama.

Democrats back Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a party financier’s daughter who has gotten campaign advice and help from former President Bill Clinton. Like Nunn in Georgia, Grimes wants to win big among women. Like Bevin, she is going after McConnell as part of the problem in Washington, but she also says McConnell cares more about his national party post than about Kentucky.

McConnell has plenty of money to respond. He’d already spent $10 million by the end of 2013.

• In Louisiana, Landrieu is seeking a fourth term never having topped 52.1 percent of the vote. She won twice in Democratic presidential years. She won in 2002, a midterm year, by running as a centrist who could work with a Republican White House. This time, she has to run with Obama’s negatives – a 40 percent approval rating in Louisiana, according to Gallup – without having him at the top of the ticket to excite Democrats, particularly black voters.

U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy has the backing of national Republican leaders and donors. But he once contributed to Landrieu and, as a state senator, he pushed a proposal similar to Obama’s health insurance exchanges. At least two other Republicans will be on the all-party primary ballot. Unless one primary candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates go to a runoff in December. That second round of voting might be Cassidy’s best shot at winning the Senate seat.

Landrieu defends her health care vote but has clamored for changes to the law. Democrats cite her influence as head of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, saying her post is a boon for Louisiana’s oil-and-gas industry and hammering Cassidy as a rubber stamp for House Republicans. Both she and Cassidy champion flood insurance relief for coastal residents.

• Mississippi hasn’t seen Sen. Thad Cochran truly campaign in decades. That’s changing with a challenge from state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who boasts endorsements from national conservative and tea party groups. Cochran backers answered with a super political action committee organized by Henry Barbour, the nephew of the former RNC chairman and Gov. Haley Barbour.

McDaniel wants to turn Cochran’s greatest asset – his experience and what it’s meant financially to Mississippi – into a liability by making the incumbent the face of the nation’s $17 trillion debt. The Cochran team attacks McDaniel’s legislative votes supporting bond debt for public projects. The comparison, McDaniel says, is intellectually dishonest. Henry Barbour counters that McDaniel casting Cochran as a “big-government liberal” is just as ludicrous.

Democrats recruited former U.S. Rep. Travis Childers and hope that move positions them for a surprise November victory if McDaniel defeats Cochran.

• North Carolina voters give Obama a 43 percent job approval rating, and some surveys put Hagan’s even lower. It’s tricky enough that she decided not to appear with Obama in January when he spoke at North Carolina State University.

Republicans have a free-for-all primary.

North Carolina’s House speaker, Thom Tillis, who led a conservative resurgence in the Statehouse, is the national Republican favorite, but he must contend with several conservative challengers. If Tillis emerges, Democrats plan to use his legislative agenda – making it harder to vote, cutting public education financing and tightening abortion regulations – against him.

• In West Virginia, U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito avoided a bruising GOP primary, enabling her to build an organization and raise money for a race in an increasingly Republican state. Secretary of State Natalie Tennant will try to hold retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller’s seat for Democrats.

• In Virginia, Democratic Sen. Mark Warner is the most popular politician, and Obama won the commonwealth twice. But in Ed Gillespie, a former national GOP chairman, Republicans found a candidate who can raise the money to compete.

Christie vetoes transgender birth certificate bill

Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Jan. 13 vetoed a bill to allow transgender people to update the gender marker on their birth certificates to match their lived gender.

The bill passed by strong majorities in both the House and Senate. The governor’s veto means the existing law stands, which contains a requirement that transgender people undergo surgical procedures to obtain an accurate birth certificate.

Christie’s veto message said, “Birth certificates are often required to complete myriad security-related tasks. Accordingly, proposed measures that revise the standards for the issuance of amended birth certificates may result in significant legal uncertainties and create opportunities for fraud, deception, and abuse, and should therefore by closely scrutinized and sparingly approved.”

The statement also said “New Jersey already has an administrative process in place to streamline applications to amend birth certificates for gender purposes without court order.”

Responding, in a news release, Dru Levasseur of Lambda Legal’s Transgender Rights Project, said, “There is simply no justification for requiring transgender or intersex individuals to undergo unnecessary and often unavailable procedures in order to amend their birth certificates. New Jersey’s onerous surgery requirement is out-of-step with contemporary standards for transgender health care and imposes a hurdle that many cannot and should not have to meet simply to have identity documents that reflect who they are.”

A Lambda representative testified in favor of the legislation in December. Staff attorney Jael Humphrey told lawmakers that “birth certificates are the most basic proof of who we are.”

Humphrey continued, “Our identification documents are a gateway to employment, education and housing. They affect our ability to adopt or retain custody of our children, to secure a loan or to prove to our employers that we are authorized to work. When the gender marker differs from lived gender on identity documents, or the documents themselves are inconsistent, transgender and intersex people are robbed of their privacy and are more vulnerable to harassment, groundless accusations of fraud, discrimination and even violence.”

Other states and U.S. agencies have modernized policies regarding birth certificates and other documents, including the State Department and the Social Security Administration.

The New Jersey bill would have mandated a new birth record for people who have undergone “clinically appropriate treatment for the purpose of gender transition, based on contemporary medical standards.”

State Sen. Joseph Vitale sponsored the measure. The bill passed in the Senate in late December, 21-11. Assembly members approved the bill in June, 43-27.

Survey: Majorities in every congressional district back protections for gay workers

Research from the Williams Institute at the University of California-Los Angeles shows majorities in every U.S. congressional district support banning workplace bias based on sexual orientation.

The research was released on Nov. 19, as efforts continue to nudge U.S. representatives to support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. The measure, which would ban workplace bias based on gender identity and sexual orientation, passed the Senate earlier this fall.

The Williams Institute did not have enough data to include gender identity in the public opinion survey.

In 2007, the House considered a bill similar to ENDA. Although majorities in their districts supported the measure, 183 members voted against the bill.

On the Web …

http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/u-s-house-and-enda/

Global corruption survey: 1 in 4 paid bribe in past year

The Global Corruption Barometer 2013, released on July 9, shows that one person in two thinks corruption has worsened in the past two years.

The world’s largest public opinion survey, conducted by Transparency International, also found people optimistic that they can make a difference and oppose graft.

About 114,000 people in 107 countries were surveyed by Transparency International.

The poll found that about 27 percent of respondents paid a bribe when accessing public services and institutions in the past 12 months.

But nine out of 10 people said they would act against corruption and two-thirds of those asked to pay a bribe refused.

“Bribe paying levels remain very high worldwide, but people believe they have the power to stop corruption and the number of those willing to combat the abuse of power, secret dealings and bribery is significant, “ stated Huguette Labelle, the chair of Transparency International, in releasing the survey results.

The survey also showed:

• Majorities in 36 countries view police as the most corrupt.

• In those countries, an average of 53 percent of people had been asked to pay a bribe to the police.

• Majorities in 20 countries view the judiciary as the most corrupt.

• In those countries, an average of 30 percent of the people who had come in contact with the judicial systems had been asked to pay a bribe.

• In 51 countries, political parties are seen as the most corrupt institution.

• 55 percent of respondents think government is run by special interests.

On the Web…

http://www.transparency.org

Wis. Democrats score wins after 2 years of losses

After two years of heart-wrenching defeats, capped by Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s recall victory this summer, Wisconsin Democrats were on an unrelenting losing streak.

And when popular former Gov. Tommy Thompson decided to run for U.S. Senate, Republicans appeared poised for yet another prominent win that would give them control of both Wisconsin’s Senate seats for the first time since the 1950s.

But there would be no GOP sweep.

President Barack Obama fired up his turn-out machine and made winning Wisconsin a priority, pouring money, star power and money into the state. And fellow Democrat Tammy Baldwin put together a well-funded, disciplined and smart campaign in the face of long odds against an opponent so well-known that most people simply call him “Tommy.”

It paid off: Both Obama and Baldwin won their tight races on Nov. 6, keeping alive Wisconsin’s tradition as a state that doesn’t stay all blue or all red for too long.

The victories were the biggest scores for Democrats since Obama’s surprising 14-point win in Wisconsin in 2008 that left Republicans sullen and confused. The GOP found itself in a similar position Tuesday night.

“We’re all quite stunned at the results because we had such an energized base, the independents were falling our way,” Republican state Sen. Alberta Darling, co-chair of Mitt Romney’s Wisconsin campaign. “People were coming out of the woodwork to help. Maybe we were just not dealing with the real reality.”

Republicans did, however, regain control of the state Senate and maintained their majority in the Assembly – once again giving the GOP full control of state government. Still, the Obama and Baldwin victories were significant for Democrats who were downtrodden just five months ago when Walker survived the recall, said Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate.

“We were never as blue as we looked in ‘08, we were never as red as we looked in ‘10,” Tate said in an interview. “It’s a narrowly divided state.”

With her win, Baldwin will become the first female U.S. senator from Wisconsin and the first openly gay candidate to win election to the Senate. Her victory also handed the 70-year-old Thompson his first loss in a statewide election and likely spells the end of his storied political career.

Republicans were searching for a silver lining in the national losses, and they found it with the GOP winning back the state Senate. That returned state government to where it was before a Republican loss in a recall election in June gave Democrats a narrow one-vote majority in the Senate, though that Democratic majority was largely symbolic since the legislative session doesn’t begin until January.

Republicans also held on to control of the state Assembly.

“We must look at the wonderful job our great governor Scott Walker has done for us, and the people in the state of Wisconsin were wise enough to return to him a majority in our state Senate,” Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen told dejected Thompson backers at what supporters had hoped would be a victory party.

What Republicans do with their reclaimed majority remains to be seen. Legislative leaders and Walker have been vague in describing their agenda for the next two years.

There was no change to the makeup of the state’s U.S. House delegation. Five Republican incumbents, including Romney running mate Paul Ryan, and Democrats won re-election. State Rep. Mark Pocan, a Democrat, won the race to replace Baldwin in her Madison-area congressional district.

Wisconsin’s gay community heralded the wins of both Baldwin and Pocan, who also is openly gay.

“This is truly a historic night for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community,” said Katie Belanger, executive director of Fair Wisconsin, the state’s largest gay rights group.

Republicans were also buoyed by Ryan’s ascendance after being picked as Romney’s running mate, even though it ultimately was a losing effort. The longtime congressman is already being discussed as a possible presidential candidate in 2016.

About half of those surveyed in an Associated Press exit poll said they had a favorable opinion of Ryan, including one in eight who said they voted for Obama. Four in 10 said they had an unfavorable view of Ryan.

The election caps off a wild two years in Wisconsin, first with the fight over Walker’s collective bargaining law, then the multiple recall elections targeting state senators and Walker, followed by Ryan’s rise and the state’s central role in the presidential campaign.

While Republicans scored the most significant victories during the past two years, Democrats savored the reversal of fortunes brought by their wins on Nov. 6.

“It has been a tumultuous two years in Wisconsin as we have engaged in this great conversation over the future and values of our middle class,” Tate, the Democratic Party chairman, said in a statement. “We know and feel deeply that change can be difficult – but as Senator-elect Baldwin’s and the president’s victory tonight proves – it will come.”