Voters in Wisconsin sent openly gay Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin a strong message Tuesday night: We like you, we really like you. And why not. The soft-spoken, articulate Baldwin has been working hard for the voters of her district for ten years.

Baldwin became the first openly gay person elected to the House in 1998. (Massachusetts Representative Barney Frank acknowledged he was gay while serving his second term.) Baldwin is also the first female representative elected from Wisconsin.

In 2009, Baldwin and Frank will be joined by Colorado's Jared Polis, the first openly gay man to be elected to the House.

Speaking to CEO Charlotte Robinson, Baldwin talks about President-elect Barack Obama, her reactions to passage of anti-gay initiatives and, of course, her new gay colleague Jared Polis.

Referring to the incoming administration as “a time of extraordinary opportunity,” Baldwin believes Obama to be solidly supportive of issues important to gays and lesbians.

“We can begin to judge this president-elect by the kind of campaign he has run and it has been an extraordinarily inclusive and diverse campaign. And I expect that that will be characteristic of the administration that he puts together.”

Baldwin pegs the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act as the likely first GLBT legislative effort of the new Congress. The bill has previously passed both houses of Congress, but faced a threatened presidential veto from George Bush. Obama, however, has pledged his support for the bill.

Discussing Tuesday's gay marriage ban amendment sweep in California, Arizona and Florida, Baldwin said the results were “sad,” “distressing” and “unacceptable,” but stressed that there is room for optimism in states such as New York and New Jersey.

And while Baldwin praised Polis' big win in Colorado – saying Polis will bring a new “energy” and “perspective” to Congress – she lamented the loss of openly gay Linda Ketner in South Carolina.

“Linda Ketner mounted a challenge to what most people would agree is a well-entrenched Republican incumbent,” Baldwin said. “She really made some history there [running as an openly gay candidate in the deep south]. And while she came up short, I'm very proud of her strong candidacy and think she has helped create a path for others to follow. And that's noteworthy in and of itself.”

Listen to the entire audio interview at