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U.S. Senate candidate profile: U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin

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MADISON -- Four Republican candidates are vying to take on Democratic candidate Tammy Baldwin for Wisconsin's U.S. Senate seat. The GOP Senate primary is Tuesday, August 14th. FOX6 News is profiling the candidates for U.S. Senate. Next up -- the only Democrat in the race -- U.S. Representative Tammy Baldwin.

Baldwin is attempting to become the first woman ever elected to the United States Senate from Wisconsin. She is 50 years old, from Madison and holds a law degree from UW-Madison.

Baldwin has represented Wisconsin's second Congressional district since 1999 and now, she wants to move into the U.S. Senate.

From the time Baldwin got into politics, she was on a collision course with history.

FOX6's Mike Lowe: "Your campaign would be historic on a couple of counts. One you would be the first woman ever elected to the Senate from Wisconsin, and two you would be the first openly gay senator in the country's history.  Do you believe that your sexual orientation is a valid campaign issue?"

"I have always been open and honest about my sexual orientation and I believe integrity and honesty is something voters value," Baldwin said.

When Baldwin was born, her mother was just 19 years old and dealing with an addiction to painkillers. She was overwhelmed, so Baldwin grew up with her grandparents. Baldwin came out when she was in college.

"It was an incredible process of self-discovery and when I came out publicly -- one of the most freeing decisions I ever made. Fear of discrimination exists, but I found it freeing to be able to be honest with my family, my friends and the voters who have placed their trust in me," Baldwin said.

Sexual orientation has been a political wedge issue for decades, but polls show increasing acceptance for gay marriage.

Mike Lowe: "Are you concerned that if criticism of your sexual orientation is not overt in this campaign, that it will be subtle, in the sense that they'll make the case that you don't represent Wisconsin values?"

Tammy Baldwin: "I'm not concerned about that at all.  I think that this election is going to be about the hard-working people of Wisconsin and how they can start getting ahead of again.  Too often over the past few years  and the past decade, we have seen people struggling to get ahead. "

Baldwin says the focus should be on improving the economy.

"I want to put people to work right away, rebuilding our roads, our bridges, our schools. I support bringing the troops home from Afghanistan and bringing the money back here to home. I also believe we can't just balance the budget on the shoulders of the middle class -- we have to put in their fair share too," Baldwin said.

Baldwin went to Smith College -- a women's liberal arts school and earned a law degree from UW-Madison. Throughout her six years in Congress, Baldwin has perhaps been most passionate when advocating for universal health care. She spoke about it at the 2000 Democratic National Convention, and again four years later.

"Everyday Americans and workers can't afford their premiums and employers who can't provide benefits for their workers. Seniors who can't afford their prescriptions, families who can't see their doctor of choice.  If we can bring health care to Iraq, why can't we do the same here at home?" Baldwin said.

National health care reform is now law, but each Republican candidate is vowing to push for its repeal.

"The affordability of health care is key to solving the struggles that the middle class are facing right now," Baldwin said.

Mike Lowe: "You've heard, I'm sure, the criticism from business owners who say it hinders their hiring -- the health care law -- or their ability to hire new employees. How do you respond to those kinds of criticisms from the business community?"

"They know when they create jobs if they're able to offer high-quality and affordable health care that that's a way to keep a competitive edge over the business down the road," Baldwin said.

While Republicans push for spending cuts and tax cuts, Baldwin sees a different path to a balanced budget.

"I certainly believe we need to repeal the Bush Tax Cuts for the very wealthiest. As I say, when you have opportunities provided in this country and you're able to climb that ladder of success, you need to be part of the solution," Baldwin said.

Congress now works in a perpetual state of polarization.

"Republicans have put forth extreme and divisive legislation that takes away women's ability to make their own important life decisions about their reproductive health. This  extremist legislation is an unprecedented display of lack of respect for American women and our safety," Baldwin said.

Mike Lowe: "We would hope that Republicans and Democrats could find some middle ground. How can you make the case that you will be that person when you vote with your party 98 percent of the time?"

"I've had any number of votes where I've been part of a small minority because I stand up and fight. I couldn't agree more (that we need to work together) and that's why I'm running for the Senate," Baldwin said.

The U.S. Senate GOP primary is Tuesday, August 14th. Baldwin is on the ballot, but is running unopposed in the primary. She'll take on one of four Republican candidates vying for the seat.

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