|In Brief - Elected Governor of Iowa in Nov. 1998 and re-elected in 2002; did not seek re-election in 2006, term ended in Jan. 12, 2007. (Vilsack was in 2006 the longest serving Democratic Governor). Chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council July 15, 2005-Jan. 11, 2007. Chairman of the Democratic Governors' Association, 2004. Elected to the Iowa State Senate, 1992, and served through 1998. Elected Mayor of Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, 1987, and served through 1992. Partner in the Bell and Vilsack Law Office, 1975-1998. Law degree from Albany Law School, 1975 and bachelor's degree from Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, 1972. Born Dec. 13, 1950 in Pittsburgh, PA. [Timeline].|
In 1998 then state Senator Tom Vilsack became the first Democrat to be elected governor of Iowa in over 32 years. In 2002 he was re-elected. He declined to seek a third term in 2006. Toward the end of his governorship, Vilsack's online biography noted that he "has strengthened communities throughout Iowa with a comprehensive economic growth strategy, made significant investments in Iowa’s education system, and increased the number of Iowans with healthcare coverage." "The governor has achieved these goals while eliminating three state departments, reducing the total number of state employees by 8%, and providing targeted tax relief to working families without raising overall taxes," the biography stated. Vilsack's record was such that in November 2006 Iowans not only elected Democratic Secretary of State Chet Culver to succeed him but also put Democrats in the majority in the Iowa House and Senate. Vilsack was at that time the longest serving Democratic governor.
Looking to the
Vilsack presents a moderate, low-key image. He appeared geographically well positioned for a general election campaign; Iowa and neigboring Wisconsin and Minnesota were closely contested battleground states in the past two elections. First Lady Christie Vilsack, who taught eighth grade language arts for 15 years and freshman English and journalism at Iowa Wesleyan College for six years, and worked on literacy throughout Vilsack's tenure, was also a substantial asset. In 2004 Vilsack was on the short list as a possible running mate for Sen. John Kerry.
Vilsack took several steps to achieve higher national profile in 2005. In April he formed the Heartland PAC. Its objectives were: first to elect Democratic governors, primarily, as well as other statewide officials; and second to become a marketplace of ideas to promote the development of innovative public policy. In July Vilsack became chair of the Democratic Leadership Council, affording him a national platform. He also gained exposure as a member of the National Governors' Association executive committee and as chairman of the Democratic Governors' Association in 2004.
The Courage to
On Nov. 9, 2006, two days after the 2006 mid-term elections, Vilsack filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to establish a presidential campaign committee. On Nov. 30, stressing the theme of community, he formally announced his campaign at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa. Vilsack built a strong organization in Iowa, opening six field offices, doing 16 "Tom Team" events, and announcing, on Feb. 9, 2007, a list of "1159 committed Iowa caucusgoers for Vilsack." He dispatched his national field director to New Hampshire to start up the campaign there. He was out on the campaign trail, speaking particularly on Iraq and on energy security. For example in early February his campaign had a full presence at the DNC winter meeting in Washington, DC and he participated in the Feb. 21 AFSCME forum in Carson City, NV. However there were also a couple of curious notes; on Jan. 29 he appeared at a press conference at Drake University Law School for announcement of his appointment as visiting distinguished professor of law, and on Feb. 1 it was announced that he would be a consultant on renewable energy and the environment to MidAmerican Energy Holdings Company. On Feb. 23 Vilsack abruptly pulled the plug on his campaign, citing money. In a conference call he also mentioned his concern for his staff and a desire to give them the opportunity to continue working in the 2008 campaign. In a statement he said:
"I have the boldest plan to get us out of Iraq and a long-term policy for energy security to keep us out of future oil wars. Our campaign has built the strongest organization here in Iowa, with almost 3,000 supporters among Democratic caucus goers. We are organizationally positioned to win the caucuses in January 2008. We have everything to win the nomination and general election. Everything except money."
DNC Winter Meeting, Washington, DC, Feb. 3, 2007 [transcript]
Presidential announcement speech in Mount Pleasant, IA, Nov. 30, 2006 [transcript]
DLC National Conversation in Columbus, OH, July 25, 2005 [transcript]
Feb. 3, 2007-DNC Winter Meeting.
Dec. 6, 2006-At Democratic Governors Association meeting.
Nov. 29-30, 2006-Announcing his candidacy in Mount Pleasant, IA.
June 23, 2006-NDN 2006 Annual Meeting.
June 14, 2006-Politics & Eggs" breakfast in Bedford, NH. ["Politics and Eggs" by The New England Council and The New Hampshire Political Library]
Feb. 28, 2006-Speaking at the National Press Club.
Feb. 25, 2006-At the National Governors Association's Winter Meeting.
Oct. 25, 2005-Hosting a DLC forum on "Progressive Solutions to National Budget Crisis."
Oct. 13, 2005-Gov. Mick Huckabee (R-AR) and Gov. Tom Vilsack (D-IA) in Ankeny. [Talon (Ankeny HS newspaper) staff photog. Tory Anderson]
Aug. 13, 2005-With former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich at the Iowa State Fair. [Photos courtesy of Rick Tyler]
On the Web
redesign launched Feb. 14, 2007 +
Feb. 15, 2007 grab
launched Nov. 9, 2006
Nov. 9, 2006 grab
Nov. 15, 2005 grab
Republican Party of Iowa's
"Traveling Tom" website
launched October 26, 2005.
Jan. 2006 grab
2005 urged Vilsack
to seek a third term.
|Copyright © 2005, 2006, 2007 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action|