Thompson visits city as part of Senate campaign

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Saturday, January 14, 2012
— Tommy Thompson is accused these days of being too moderate.

He calls that “idiotic.”

Thompson visited Janesville on Friday as part of his campaign to be the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in November.

Thompson shared his thoughts on Gov. Scott Walker, Rep. Paul Ryan and his old pal, state Sen. Tim Cullen of Janesville, in a Gazette interview.

Not conservative enough?

“It’s sort of idiotic on its face,” he said.

Look at his record, he says: He didn’t raise taxes as governor and won’t as a senator.

He remembers people saying he was too conservative, back when he first ran for governor.

“I believe they want people to go to Washington just to vote no,” he said of his critics. “I want to change the direction and pass things that are going to make things more efficient.

“I’m not going to raise taxes, but I am going to come up with ideas on health care, Medicare and the deficit that are going to make our country much better off financially.”

Thompson faces an August primary against Mark Neumann, the former 1st District congressman, and state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald. Both are expected to come at Thompson from the right.

On the Democratic side, only Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-2nd District, is running for the seat now held by Democrat Herb Kohl.

Thompson said he doesn’t need to pad his resume, being elected governor four times and serving as a cabinet secretary under George W. Bush.

He even made a short presidential run in 2008.

Thompson’s senatorial pitch is that he is worried about the direction of the country and believes he can help:

“We’re electing Republicans way to the right, Democrats way to the left, and we’re not able to come together and develop good public policy,” he said. “I believe if I am the candidate on the Republican ticket, I will carry the state, … we will change the United States Senate to (Republican control), and I think I’ll be in a position because of my experience with the Department of Health and Human Services to really develop new ideas for Medicare and for health care, which are a couple of the biggest problems facing our country.”

Thompson met with supporters at the Forward Janesville offices. He also visited Blain Supply and the Gazette Printing & Distribution plant.

Thompson called Ryan “one of the great thinkers of our time.” He agrees with Ryan that the national debt and Medicare costs are huge concerns.

Thompson agrees with Ryan’s plans for Medicare, which Democrats have called “ending Medicare as we know it.”

Thompson said he differed with Ryan in one respect: Ryan’s plan called for those now age 55 and younger to be put on private insurance with premium subsidies when they get to Medicare age, Thompson said, but Thompson said those people should be given the option to stay on traditional Medicare.

Ryan later came out with just that idea, not that Thompson had anything to do with Ryan’s change of mind.

Thompson said the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, known to critics as Obamacare, has to be replaced.

“You’ve got to change our society from a disease-illness system to a wellness-prevention system and make it more market-oriented,” he said.

Asked about his own health at age 70, he said he is in good shape, does about 100 push-ups and 300 sit-ups a day.

Thompson opposes the recall of Scott Walker but thinks Cullen, who has declared he would run for governor on the Democratic ticket if the recall goes through, would be a good candidate.

Cullen and Thompson go way back as opponents and allies. Cullen was secretary of the state Department of Health and Social Services under Thompson.

“I absolutely abhor recalls,” Thompson said. “But if there’s a recall, I would much rather have Tim Cullen run than the other Democrats that are running. I still support Scott Walker and always will. I think he’s doing a wonderful job. … But if there is a recall, I think Tim should jump into it.”

Asked if he supports the end of public-employee unions’ abilities to bargain for benefits and working conditions, Thompson kept it short:

“I’m not going to second-guess the governor. I mean, he was the governor, he made the tough call, and I support him.”

Republican assembly members Joe Knilans and Evan Wynn attended the Forward Janesville event. Thompson said he wanted to campaign with both of them, who are up for re-election in November.

Last updated: 7:19 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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