By Jessica Opien
Rep. Tammy Baldwin's focus extends beyond "Tammy vs. Tommy" in the race against former Gov. Tommy Thompson to succeed Sen. Herb Kohl.
The congresswoman, who was elected the same year as Rep. Paul Ryan, in 1999, presents herself as the alternative to the "Romney-Ryan-Thompson" plan. She spoke to supporters in Oshkosh about tax policy, Medicare and corporate influence during a visit to the Winnebago County Democrats' headquarters on Saturday.
"They will typically talk about deficit and the debt, to the exclusion of all other issues, as if we didn't have a jobs and an economic challenge facing our country, and as though we weren't seeing our state's middle class and our country's middle class under such siege," Baldwin said. "I view them as parallel challenges. You can't look at one to the exclusion of the other. We have to move forward in a fair and balanced way that allows us to tackle both of them, and they suggest an array of policies that are really policies from the past -- that have already been tested, and they've failed. And obviously, we don't want to go down that path again."
Baldwin criticized Thompson's lucrative ties to health companies as a consultant, investor, speaker and executive in the years since he left his post as Health and Human Services secretary, questioning whose interests he has at heart.
"I certainly admire Tommy's public service," Baldwin told The Northwestern. "But I question what he's fighting for now. He's spent the last 10 years fighting on the side of the big powerful interests that have too much power in Washington today. I really think the hardworking people of the state need a champion in Washington D.C., and a senator following in the tradition of Herb Kohl, who's really been an incredible leader for the people of this state. Middle class families and seniors and children have been sort of his focus."
The Fox Valley will be a "hugely important" region in the election, Baldwin said, adding that the area's manufacturing industry has suffered as a result of unfair competition. With Rep. Reid Ribble, R-8th district, who represents the "paper valley," Baldwin, who represents the second congressional district, introduced bipartisan legislation to protect the U.S. paper industry from Chinese imports. The legislation was rolled into a larger bill and signed into law.
"It allows us to even the playing field when we find out that countries like China are cheating by subsidizing their paper industry," Baldwin told The Northwestern, adding that other parts of the state face the same threat in the solar panel and auto parts industries.
While Wisconsin has barely had time to focus on the Senate race in the wake of the gubernatorial recall election and Mitt Romney's selection of Ryan as his running mate, Baldwin said she thinks the state will have returned to a sense of equilibrium by Election Day.
"I think voters, on Nov. 6, are going to be thinking about jobs and the economy, and how to balance their own checkbooks and make ends meet," Baldwin told The Northwestern. "And they're going to be looking for the candidate who's there fighting for them."