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Presidential hopeful Tommy Thompson makes Le Mars visit

Friday, May 11, 2007

(Photo)
Former Wisconsin governor, former Health and Human Services Secretary, and Republican Presidential hopeful Tommy Thompson made a campaign stop in Le Mars Thursday. He spoke to a crowd of party activists at the Family Table Restaurant.
While licking a half-eaten ice cream cone and shaking the hands of potential supporters, the folksy former Secretary of Health and Human Services and former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson seemed at home during a campaign swing through Northwest Iowa that included a stop in Le Mars at the Family Table and at the Ice Cream Capitol of the World Visitor Center.

The 65-year-old Republican spoke before a group of about 30 where he discussed a wide array of topics from motorcycle riding and small town living to Iraq, healthcare, immigration and entitlement reform.

Ask Thompson to tell you about growing up as a young lad in Wisconsin and he'll gladly share with you that his hometown makes Le Mars look like a metropolis.

"I grew up in Elroy, Wisconsin and it was so small that you could pick up the phone, call a wrong number, and still talk for a half hour," said the affable Thompson who actually prefers to be referred to as simply 'Tommy'.

His rural lifestyle growing up prepared him for what would be to come in the years and decades to follow. Whether it was working on the family farm, which he still owns, or working in his parents' small grocery and gas station polishing farm eggs, Thompson understood the value of hard work early.

When he was a junior at the University of Wisconsin at the age of 23, he went home, borrowed a few hundred dollars, bought a rickety old car for $100 and travelled all over the district running for the State Assembly.

"I bought this old green 1960 Ford and it already had over 200,000 miles on it and it was in such bad shape that you could see the road through the floor boards," said Thompson.

"But I took that old car everywhere and went wherever I could even when I wasn't invited. I'd just go anywhere and everywhere, even to weddings I wasn't invited to and I'd still give the bride a kiss," Thompson said with a hearty chuckle.

It turns out, Thompson's retail style of politics won out and he was elected to the State Assembly in 1966 and slowly moved through the Republican ranks when he was elected assistant minority leader in 1973 and minority leader in 1981.

By 1986, he had noticed that his state was facing some serious economic troubles and so he decided it was time to try a run at a higher office. On election night, when everyone had bet against him, Thomspon won by over 100,000 votes.

Immediately, he started working to change the face of Wisconsin by reforming welfare and entitlement programs and by the end of his tenure as Governor, he had reduced the welfare rolls by ninety-three percent while putting an emphasis on putting people to work.

"I'm a Republican and I've always believed that we must give people a hand up and not a hand out," said Thompson.

He added, "Soon after, welfare reform swept through this country from state to state and even the federal government took notice and it all started in Wisconsin."

Thompson also highlighted his track record of introducing landmark school choice legislation, cutting taxes, creating 800,000jobs, and vetoing $287 million in unnecessary spending.

Tommy was elected or re-elected an unprecedented four times as governor while never getting less than 62 percent of the vote and never once having a Republican legislature to help him with his agenda. In 2001, President Bush selected Thompson to serve in his cabinet as the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

After four decades in public service, he believes he can offer the kind of leadership that America needs.

"There are a lot of good people running for president but all they do is talk about the problems, I'm here to talk about solutions," Thompson said.

He says he is also one of the very few on either side to offer a real solution on Iraq.

"I first want the Iraqi governemnt to vote as to whether or not they want us there. If they do, then that gives us instant credibility and standing to stay there but if they vote that they do not want us there, we should leave now," said Thompson.

He continued, "Iraq has 18 provinces, just like America has 50 states, and we need to demand that they elect local leaders. Sunnis will elected Sunnis, Shiites with elect Shiites, and Kurds will elect Kurds and then we will start to see people migrating to where the friendly governments are."

Lastly, Thompson wants to do in Iraq what the Alaskan government does with oil revenue. He would like to see the revenue divided up so that the federal government gets one third of it, the provincial governments get one third of it, and every person gets one third of it.

"If every person gets a little stake in the success and future of the country," he said, "they'll be less likely to blow stuff up and more likely to start a restaurant like this one and invite their friends in and grow the economy there."

On healthcare, Thompson wants to standardize insurance and government medical forms as well as make all medical records paperless by going electronic.

He says the technology exists and that those steps alone would save billions of dollars, a lot of confusion and frustration, and limit the amount of medical malpractice.

"America's healthcare is the absolute best in the world but it is in trouble, especially Medicare," said Thompson sternly.

He continued, "We need to take action soon before it becomes a real crisis. We're spending ninety three percent of our money on 'sick care' after people get sick and we should be spending those dollars on 'health care' keeping people healthy in the first place."

On immigration, he believes that America needs to enforce its laws and the border.

"We should control the border," he said emphatically. "I definitely do not believe in amnesty."

On abortion, Thompson says that the birth of his recent grandchild reaffirmed his pro-life beliefs because his daughter, who is the mother, had breast cancer and a masectomy and was only able to salvage one egg. Due to cancer treatment drugs, she was unable to carry the child to term and so Thompson's other daughter served as a surrogate mother.

"When that baby was born, I held it in my arms and it was amazing to think how far that baby had come from something so mycroscopic as an embryo in a lab dish to something so precious as a baby," he said proudly.

Plymouth County residents are likely to be able to meet the ice cream cone lovin' Tommy Thompson again as he plans to continue to travel from county to county in Iowa touting his message of change.

As the only farmer running for President and the only one that rides motorcycles, he believes Iowans will find him appealing just as Wisconsin residents did so many times before.

According to Thompson, all of the Republicans in the race are good men but too many of them will govern just like the Republicans who got badly beaten last November. He wants to change government in Washington like he changed government in Wisconsin.

"Republicans went to Washington to change Washington and Washington ended up changing them. As Republicans, we lost our way," said Thompson. But he added proudly, "I've never lost a race and I'm ready."



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