Four gay candidates claimed victory last night in a series of primary wins in Wisconsin and Florida.
In Wisconsin's congressional Democratic primary, state Rep. Mark Pocan won the party's nomination for the 2nd District, which encompasses some of the state's most liberal areas, including Madison.
Now that he has secured his party's nomination, it appears almost certain that Pocan will become the eighth out member of Congress in American history.
Pocan, a small-business owner who married his husband in Canada in 2006, is running for the seat vacated by Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin, a lesbian hoping to become the first out gay member to serve in the U.S. Senate.
In a statement, Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which endorsed Pocan, praised his service as a state legislator.
"Mark Pocan is an outstanding public servant who will be a strong and authentic voice for LGBT Americans in Congress," Wolfe said. "It's fitting that as Congresswoman Baldwin fights to win a historic victory in the Senate, Mark Pocan will follow in her footsteps as one of the most powerful voices for LGBT equality in America."
Baldwin officially became the Democratic Senate nominee last night while also learning who she will face in November. Wisconsin Republicans nominated former Gov. Tommy Thompson as their Senate candidate after a four-way primary fight.
In a statement, Baldwin labeled Thompson, who served as Health and Human Services secretary for President George W. Bush, an insider who will "put those at the very top and the big monied special interests in Washington ahead of Wisconsin’s hard working families."
"I will take on these powerful interests in Washington, and in the Senate, I will stand up for Wisconsin's middle class, as I always have," Baldwin said.
Like the three candidates he competed with, Thompson's record on LGBT issues is lacking. However, political observers believe he posses the greatest threat to a Baldwin victory because of his popularity in the state and Republican establishment roots.
Although Thompson did not endorse a federal amendment to the Constitution banning marriage equality – unlike his three opponents – he did state that he believes "very strongly" in the Defense of Marriage Act.
"I think that is left up to the individual business," Thompson said. "I really sincerely believe that that is an issue that business people have got to make their own determination as to whether or not they should be."
Thompson apologized after the debate, stating he misheard the question due to a faulty hearing aid and a need to use the bathroom.
History was also made in Florida last night, where voters elected their first out gay state legislator.
Democrat David Richardson, a forensic accountant from Miami Beach, defeated two opponents in an open primary.
Wolfe called it a "major victory for LGBT Floridians who have waited far too long to have a voice in decisions that affect them and their families."
Richardson could be joined in Tallahassee by another gay Democrat, Joe Saunders, who won his Central Florida primary last night as well and will go on to compete in the general election this fall.
[Photos: Mark Pocan (Credit Todd Franson/Metro Weekly), Tommy Thompson (Courtesy of Wikipedia).]