Progressive students showed up in droves Thursday night in a sign of support for incumbent U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin, as she faces a tough battle for reelection later this year.
Badgers for Tammy, a student organization working to reelect Baldwin this November, hosted her at their kickoff meeting Thursday. Co-sponsoring Thursday’s meeting was a series of progressive student organizations — including Climate Action 350 Madison, the Accessible Reproductive Healthcare Initiative, the Madison chapter of the National Organization for Women, the Young Progressives, the UW College Democrats and the Student Alliance for Reproductive Justice.
Energized progressive ideals and high turnout among young voters are key to Baldwin’s re-election campaign this November. The Madison native said she looks to students for input on pressing topics, such as gun reform and student debt.
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As she fights for reelection, Baldwin said her campaign is taking action against unprecedented levels of outside spending by the Koch brothers and big businesses.
“My belief is that these outside super PACs have an agenda. It is about their interests — not ours,” Baldwin said. “They have seen through so many years that I am totally unafraid to stand up to them no matter how much money they spend.”
Student debt is a huge concern for Baldwin’s campaign, and she said it makes no sense that students cannot refinance their loans after they graduate.
But even that option is not enough, Baldwin said. The issue of loan restructuring addresses people who have already amassed student loan debt, and Baldwin said it’s important to care about people who are in school right now.
“Perhaps you have younger siblings who are maybe saying, ‘Gosh, my big brother or big sister is getting a lot of debt,'” Baldwin said. “They then might forgo a higher education.”
Baldwin said student voter participation at universities across the country plays a key role in democracy. She said student voices and involvement are essential to turning the tide in elections.
Students were essential to Baldwin’s Senate victory in 2012, and she said her work in Washington since that time has been based on the betterment of students — particularly with regards to education and to state partnerships with federal entities that increase program availability. Baldwin specifically mentioned America’s College Promise, a bill she’s sponsoring to increase college affordability.
“America’s College Promise is a bill that allows for the first two years of college to be free,” Baldwin said. “A century ago, we made a promise to provide free K-12 education to everyone. That used to be enough to get you a career, but it’s not anymore.”
Baldwin said her main goal is to be a voice for students and fight for them instead of fighting for Wall Street and powerful businesses. She wants to invest in the future of students by providing options for debt forgiveness.
Thursday’s event occurred while the two Republicans vying for her seat — state Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, and Delafield businessman Kevin Nicholson — had their first debate.
Baldwin, along with Nicholson and Vukmir, face their respective primary elections Aug. 14. Baldwin, who faces no serious contenders in her primary, will then face the Republican candidate in the Nov. 6 general election.