US Senate Dem Advantage Grows; Tammy Baldwin First Out LGBT Member

Wisconsin Senator-Elect Tammy Baldwin is the first openly LGBT member of that chamber. | TAMMYBALDWIN.COM

The current Senate has 53 Democrats and 47 Republicans, and that configuration likely grew to a 55-45 advantage in Tuesday’s election. Though continued control of the House by the GOP is likely to stymie LGBT progress on Capitol Hill — at least under current political calculations — Harry Reid’s control of the Senate is all that stands in the way of a united Congress opposed to major gay initiatives.

How Election Day gave Democrats a bigger majority in the Senate. | MICHAEL SHIREY

This year, 33 seats were up for grabs — 23 seats held by Democrats and ten by Republicans. Democrats held on to 22 of those seats, with 16 incumbents winning reelection. Six Democratic Senate newcomers — Representatives Chris Murphy in Connecticut, Mazie Keiko Hirono in Hawaii, Martin Heinrich in New Mexico, Heidi Heitkamp in North Dakota, and Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin and former Governor Tim Kaine in Virginia — held onto Democratic seats.

Baldwin, originally elected to the House in 1998 from the Madison area as Congress’ first out lesbian, will be the first openly LGBT senator as well.

Two Democrats won seats previously held by Republicans — with Congressman Joe Donnelly capturing the seat held by Richard Lugar, who was defeated in the GOP primary, and Elizabeth Warren defeating incumbent Scott Brown.

Independent Angus King, a former Maine governor widely expected to caucus with the Democrats, won the open seat vacated by Republican Olympia Snowe.

Seven of the ten Republicans seats were defended, with five incumbents winning, Representative Jeff Flake holding on to Jon Kyl’s seat, and Texas Solicitor General Rafael “Ted” Cruz winning the seat being vacated by the GOP’s Kay Bailey Hutchison.

In addition, one Republican won a seat previously held by a Democrat, with State Legislator Debra Fischer capturing the seat vacated by retiring Senator Ben Nelson in Nebraska.

If Maine’s King caucuses with the Democrats, their current 53-47 majority will grow by two.