Openly gay Wisconsin Representative Tammy Baldwin is seriously considering a run to succeed Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl, who announced in May he would not seek a fifth term in 2012.

“I think I am likely to run,” Baldwin told Madison-based The Capital Times. “I am gathering more data and I am going to be traveling around the state.”

Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Victory Fund, a group devoted to promoting openly gay elected officials, is encouraging Baldwin to run for the Senate. If elected, she would become the chamber's first openly gay member.

“This would obviously be a top priority for us. Tammy Baldwin has been an outstanding congresswoman, and she'd be an outstanding senator,” Wolfe said in an email to supporters.

Baldwin is among the four openly gay lawmakers serving in the House. Also gay are David Cicilline of Rhode Island, Barney Frank of Massachusetts and Jared Polis of Colorado.

The 49-year-old Baldwin was first elected to represent the people of Wisconsin's 2nd congressional district in 1999. For 8 years prior she served in the Wisconsin Assembly.

When asked how she would fend off the almost-inevitable smear attacks of opponents, Baldwin said she was prepared to lead by example.

“It is daunting these days the way people are personally demeaned for holding a view, and yet I fear good people won't step forward and run for office if we don't set an example,” she said. “The toxicity is such I fear we won't have good people standing for elections.”

Baldwin added that she has been “very encouraged” by initial fund-raising efforts.

(Related: Smear attacks against openly lesbian Houston Mayor Annise Parker backfire.)