A top official from the Tommy Thompson campaign e-mailed his contacts a video with cutting commentary and tweeted about Tammy Baldwin's appearance at a Pride festival in what could presage a willingness to use the lesbian congresswoman's sexual orientation against her in the key U.S. Senate contest in Wisconsin.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Brian Nemoir, the political director for Thompson, sent an e-mail and posted a Twitter message in advance of Baldwin's speech Thursday at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. He included a link to the congresswoman's appearance at a 2010 Pride festival and attempted to contrast her dancing there with the convention speech in which she promised to talk about "heartland values."
"Clearly, there's no one better positioned to talk 'heartland values' than Tammy," wrote Nemoir in the e-mail obtained by WisPolitics.com. According to the Sentinel, "The email included a link to a video of Baldwin dancing in 2010 with the costumed disco band VO5 playing the 'Wonder Woman' theme. Baldwin, wearing sunglasses, dances on stage with the band and at the end hugs the singer, who is dressed like the comic book hero Wonder Woman."
Baldwin, an eight-term representative from Madison, could become the first openly gay person elected to the U.S. Senate. Her address to the DNC focused on the economy, but she praised the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" and said "Republicans want to write discrimination into our Constitution," a reference to their platform's call for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. She linked her opponent, a former four-term governor and Bush cabinet secretary, to leaders from his party, saying, "Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Scott Walker, Tommy Thompson--they think they're the only ones who speak for Wisconsin."
The Baldwin campaign has declined to comment on the incident, but Nemoir told the Journal Sentinel that he acted on his own and sent the message to a "handful of select contacts." A Thompson campaign consultant likewise told the Wisconsin State Journal that the political director "was not representing the Thompson campaign in this matter," but a copy of the e-mail obtained by The Advocate shows that Nemoir sent the message from his Thompson campaign account, with the subject line, "Tammy Baldwin's Heartland Values." The subject line included the "ICYMI" (In Case You Missed It) tag that press operatives commonly use to flag items for reporters' attention.
"Yesterday, Madison-Liberal Tammy Baldwin cited "heartland values" as the topic for her primetime speech to the DNC tomorrow night," the e-mail began. "Clearly, there's no one better positioned to talk "heartland values" than Tammy," it said before sharing the video link.
Nemoir wrote, "A primer of her values---note event, and enjoy," before signing off with his campaign account information.
His Twitter account, which had said posts "do not represent the views of clients or organizations with whom I might be involved," was switched to private Thursday, the Journal Sentinel reported. Asked whether he regretted sending the video, Nemoir told the newspaper, "I think there are issues in this race that are extremely significant that will be generated on a day-to-day basis and I look forward to coverage of those issues."
Nemoir did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Advocate.
Thompson defeated three Republican challengers perceived as more conservative in a primary last month. He has expressed support for the Defense of Marriage Act but has not endorsed a federal marriage amendment. During a 2007 presidential debate, he said that he believed employers should be allowed to fire employees because of their sexual orientation, but he quickly retracted the statement, which he blamed on a malfunctioning hearing aide, flu symptoms and an urgent need to use the restroom.
Both political parties are closely eyeing the contest in Wisconsin, one of a handful of races that could determine control of the Senate. A Marquette University Law School poll found Thompson leading Baldwin by as much as nine points last month, but the congresswoman enjoys strong support from national progressive, women's and LGBT groups.
Among the groups supporting Baldwin is the lesbian-led super PAC, LPAC. The group sent a fundraising email for the candidate last month in which it warned that she would be attacked, "Because she stands up for women. Because she believes in economic justice. Because she's a lesbian."
The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund has also endorsed Baldwin in her race. Vice president of communications Denis Dison provided The Advocate with a statement in response to the incident.
"At a moment when you'd think Tommy Thompson's campaign would be trying to appeal to Wisconsin voters, it speaks volumes that instead they're engaged in antigay attacks worthy of middle schoolers," he said. "But given Thompson's record -- opposing marriage rights for committed couples, opposing allowing gay and lesbian troops to serve in the military -- it's really no surprise."