Wisconsin Rep. Tammy Baldwin on Tuesday defeated her Republican rival, former Governor Tommy Thompson, to become the nation's first openly gay senator.

The AP called the race for Baldwin around 10PM ET.

Baldwin replaces retiring Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl.

β€œThe people who had faith that this was possible made it possible,” Baldwin said before voting in Madison.

The 50-year-old Baldwin announced her decision to enter the race in an email to supporters, ending months of speculation.

Baldwin first ran for Congress in 1998 after serving 8 years in the Wisconsin Assembly.

While Baldwin is a perennial favorite among the constituents in her district, her highest hurdle in running for the Senate was lack of name recognition outside her district. That is something Thompson has in spades, having served as United States secretary of health and human services under George W. Bush, a Wisconsin state legislator and the 42nd governor of Wisconsin from 1987 to 2001.

Despite the historical significance of the race, Baldwin did not emphasize her sexual orientation during the campaign.