More than 100 years ago, Robert LaFollette delivered Wisconsin’s greatest gift to the world — American Progressivism. Since then, our state has produced legends such as Robert LaFollette Jr., Gaylord Nelson, Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold — leaders who fought for every Wisconsinite, for every American and for the future of this country.

On Nov. 6, we hope to cement the legacy of another member of this tradition, someone who has stood up and continues to stand up for the people of our state — Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc.

Baldwin started her political career right here in the University of Wisconsin’s Dane County Board district. As a supervisor, Baldwin established and chaired the Dane County Task Force on AIDS. At a time at which the concept of AIDS was met with rampant homophobia and misconception, Baldwin fought fear with compassion, helping patients reach the services and assistance they needed.

In 1992, Baldwin joined the Wisconsin State Assembly, again representing downtown Madison and the UW campus. There, she helped protect whistleblowers who reported elder abuse, she extended collective bargaining rights to state public defenders and took on predatory actions by life insurance companies. She effectively put an end to exploitative practices in elderly assistance, employment and insurance on behalf of everyday people.

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By 1999, Baldwin had become a U.S. Representative and Wisconsin’s first woman in Congress. In the House, Baldwin championed legislation that helped disadvantaged Americans receive vital healthcare access. She expanded free breast and cervical cancer screening for uninsured women, she improved treatment for disabled veterans and she offered support for victims of spinal cord injury.

Through the Affordable Care Act, Baldwin pushed an amendment that allows young people to remain on their parents’ healthcare plan until age 26, helping lift a burden off of young people looking to create a life for themselves. Baldwin also worked on legislation to combat climate change and to further civil rights protections, while working to lift Americans out of the Great Recession by assisting local communities, supporting small business and encouraging job creation across our state and our nation.

In 2012, Wisconsin recognized Baldwin’s achievements as a public servant and as a voice for all by electing her as a U.S. Senator, making her the first openly gay senator in American history. Baldwin immediately continued her work to protect and advance the lives of all Americans. In the Senate, Baldwin has fought to end gender-based wage discrimination, to stop corporate tax loopholes, to protect Dreamers, to guarantee due process and governmental transparency and to slow income inequality in this nation.

Since she was first elected to the Dane County Board, to the end of her first term as U.S. Senator, Baldwin has put people first, every single step of the way. Everything she’s done has been on behalf of those she represents, regardless of whether they live in Madison, Rhinelander, La Crosse or Cedarburg. She’s furthered the idea that government should be controlled by voters rather than by businesses and lobbyists — an idea passed down by Robert LaFollette, a creed we know today as the Wisconsin Idea. Baldwin represents the best our state is — a state that leaves no one behind.

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But, this year, Baldwin, the Wisconsin Idea and people across our state have been put under attack by a small, privileged and powerful few. Outside groups have spent millions in support of two Republican senate candidates, Kevin Nicholson and Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield. Nicholson has been backed by Dick Uihlein, an Illinois billionaire. Vukmir is supported by another billionaire, Diane Hendricks. Both candidates are propped up by dark money organizations such as the Club for Growth and ALEC, organizations that have continuously pressured lawmakers to fight back against nonpartisan redistricting, public healthcare access, criminal justice reform, environmental protection, and just about any policy that might improve the lives of Wisconsinites. These candidates, and the dark-money worlds that control them, contradict every principle that defines a faithful public servant.

On Nov. 6, Wisconsin voters will have a choice between a dedicated public servant who has continuously advocated for citizens of all genders, ethnicities, classes and backgrounds and a candidate who follows the orders of private prisons, drug companies, private insurers, for-profit schools and loan sharks. This is our moment to stand up for each other and to support a leader who has, like so many before her, spent her life supporting us. This is our moment to re-elect Baldwin and to show the world what it means to be a Wisconsinite.

David Pelikan ([email protected]) is a freshman studying political science and economics. He is also Press Secretary for UW College Democrats.