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Wis. Lesbian Candidate Under Fire

August 3, 1998

MADISON, Wis. (AP) _ Ten people are running for Congress around this liberal-minded state capital, but it’s the two candidates at the extremes who are defining the race.

On one side, there’s Democratic state Rep. Tammy Baldwin, one of four lesbians nationwide running for Congress. On the other, there’s Republican Ron Greer, a Christian fundamentalist who crusades against homosexuality, calling it a sin.

Greer and Baldwin may never campaign head to head. He faces five other Republicans in the September primary; she is one of four Democrats running. But Greer’s attacks on Baldwin have made it a gay rights vs. anti-homosexuality campaign, despite efforts by most candidates to downplay the issue.

``It’s irrelevant,″ said state Sen. Joe Wineke, one of the Democrats running against Baldwin. ``I don’t plan to bring it up.″

``Holy smokes,″ said Don Carrig, one of Greer’s Republican opponents. ``Let’s talk about issues and not be ripping on other people.″

Greer, though, said Baldwin’s homosexuality is a fair campaign issue because if elected, she could influence government policy on gay rights.

``It no longer becomes a personal issue or a private issue,″ Greer said. ``It becomes a matter of public policy.″

Baldwin said she is not running as a ``lesbian candidate″ and will talk instead to voters about ``shared values,″ such as what government can do for elderly people, universal health care and education.

Their views on homosexuality aside, Greer and Baldwin present quite a contrast in the campaign to succeed Rep. Scott Klug, a Republican who is giving up the seat that covers Madison and surrounding rural counties. The district’s biggest voting bloc is in Madison, a liberal-leaning college town where signs supporting the gay and lesbian community are a common sight at homes and businesses.

Greer said he grew up an ``angry, racist young black man″ who socialized with Black Panther members. Baldwin said she was elected to her high school homecoming court.

Greer went into the Marines and served 18 months in prison for assaulting a white officer. Baldwin was elected to the Dane County Board around Madison at age 24 while earning her law degree.

Greer, 42, was fired last week from his job as a firefighter for distributing a 1997 news release critical of his fire chief. He served a two-month suspension earlier that year for distributing an anti-homosexual pamphlet at a fire station.

Baldwin, 36, who is giving up her seat in the Wisconsin Assembly to run for Congress, has been active in a variety of social and civil-rights groups.

While in prison, Greer said, he found God. The Bible dictates that homosexuality is a ``perversion of what God intended,″ he said.

Baldwin said homosexuality is an orientation and that people appreciate her honesty about it.

``The reaction I’ve gotten, predominantly, throughout my political career has been, `If you’re honest about this, you will be honest about other things,‴ she said.

Though outspoken against homosexuality, Greer said he did not enter the campaign because Baldwin was a lesbian. He said he’s running to represent the district’s ``mainstream American values.″

Baldwin has received support from Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., one of two members of Congress who have said they are homosexual. Frank, who did not disclose his homosexuality when first seeking office, said Baldwin was courageous for running as an openly lesbian candidate.

But he said it would not be as a big a factor in the campaign as some might expect.

``You’d be surprised, perhaps, with how few people want to talk about sex with their congressman,″ Frank said.

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