Tom Vilsack

Tom Vilsack

Infobox Governor
name= Tom Vilsack

office= Governor of Iowa
term_start= January 15, 1999
term_end= January 12, 2007
lieutenant= Sally Pederson
predecessor= Terry E. Branstad
successor= Chet Culver
birth_date= birth date and age |1950|12|13
birth_place= Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
residence= Mount Pleasant, Iowa
alma_mater= Hamilton College, Albany Law School
spouse= Christie Vilsack
alma_mater=Hamilton College
party= Democratic
religion=Roman Catholic
occupation= attorney

Thomas James Vilsack, born December 13, 1950, is an American politician, a member of the Democratic Party, and served as the 40th Governor of the state of Iowa. He was first elected in 1998 and re-elected to a second four-year term in 2002. On November 30, 2006, he formally launched his candidacy for the Democratic Party's nomination for President of the United States in the 2008 election, but ended his bid on February 23, 2007. [ Vilsack Dropping Out] Boston Globe, February 23, 2007]

As of May 1, 2007, Vilsack joined the Des Moines office of Minneapolis-based law firm Dorsey & Whitney and is of counsel. [Larry Splett, [ Former Iowa Governor Thomas J. Vilsack Joins Dorsey & Whitney] , April 12, 2007.] Shortly after ending his 2008 bid for the White House, he endorsed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and was named the national co-chair for Clinton's presidential campaign. [ [ - Media Release ] ]

Early life and family

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Tom Vilsack was orphaned at birth and placed in a Roman Catholic orphanage. He was adopted in 1951 by Bud and Dolly Vilsack, who raised him in the Roman Catholic faith. His adoptive father was a real-estate agent and insurance salesman, and his adoptive mother was a homemaker.

He attended high school at Shady Side Academy, a preparatory school in Pittsburgh. He received a Bachelor's degree in 1972 from Hamilton College in New York. While at Hamilton College he joined The Delta Upsilon Fraternity. He received a J.D. in 1975 from Albany Law School. He and his wife, Ann Christine "Christie" Bell moved to rural Mount Pleasant, Iowa, her hometown, where he joined his father-in-law in law practice.

Tom and Christie Vilsack have two sons, Jess and Doug. Jess graduated from Hamilton College in 2000 where he, like his father, was a member of The Delta Upsilon Fraternity. Jess received a J.D. from the University of Iowa in May 2003. Doug later graduated from Colorado College and is currently attending the University of Colorado School of Law. He is also a research associate at the School of Law's Energy and Environmental Security Initiative (EESI).

On May 1, 2006 it was announced that Vilsack joined the Board of Directors of Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Learning, a leading publisher of research-based math curricula for middle school, high school, and postsecondary students. [cite press release |title=Governor Tom Vilsack Joins Board of Carnegie Learning, Inc. |publisher=Carnegie Learning, Inc. |date=May 1, 2006 |url= |language=English ]

Early political career

Tom Vilsack was elected mayor of Mount Pleasant, Iowa in 1987, following the murder of mayor Ed King by a disgruntled citizen. He was elected to the Iowa State Senate in 1992 by a relatively slim margin. Following election, he worked on legislation requiring companies who received state tax incentives to provide better pay and benefits. He helped pass a law for workers to receive health coverage when changing jobs, and helped re-design Iowa's Workforce Development Department. He also wrote a bill to have the State of Iowa assume a 50% share of local county mental health costs.

Electoral history

*1998 Race for Governor - Democratic Primary
**Tom Vilsack (D), 52%
**Mark McCormick (D), 48%


In 1998, Terry E. Branstad chose not to seek re-election following sixteen consecutive years as governor. The Iowa Republican Party nominated Jim Ross Lightfoot, a recent former U.S. House Representative. Lightfoot became the odds-on favorite to succeed Branstad. Tom Vilsack defeated former Iowa Supreme Court Justice Mark McCormick in the Democratic primary. Vilsack chose as his running mate Sally Pederson. Vilsack narrowly won the general electionndash making it the first time in 30 years that a Democrat was elected Governor of Iowa.

In 2002 he won his second term in office by defeating Republican challenger attorney Doug Gross by eight points. Also in 2002, Vilsack appointed Dr. Stephen Gleason as his Chief of Staff. Gleason resigned in 2005 to pursue a career in Medical Consulting at Health Policy Strategies in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was replaced by Cynthia Eisenhauer, former director of the Iowa Department of Management and Iowa Workforce Development.

The first year of his second term saw creation of the Grow Iowa Values Fund, a $503 million appropriation designed to boost the Iowa economy by offering grants to corporations and initiatives pledged to create higher-income jobs. Vilsack used a line-item veto, later ruled unconstitutional by the Iowa Supreme Court, to pass the fund, vetoing portions of the bill that would have cut income taxes and eased business regulations. After a special session of the Iowa General Assembly on September 7, 2004, $100 million in state money was set aside to honor previously made commitments. The Grow Iowa Values Fund was reinstated at the end of the 2005 session: under the current law, $50 million per year will be set aside over the next ten years.

Candidates seeking to replace Vilsack, most notably Ed Fallon, criticized this program. [ [ Desmoines Register] ] Their complaints include the fact that companies lured into Iowa by the fund, unlike Iowa-based corporations, can be lured away by greater cash incentives elsewhere. Another criticism is that it does nothing to promote new business. [ [ Desmoines Register] ] In July 2005, Vilsack signed an executive order allowing all felons who had served their sentences to vote again. Iowa law previously held that convicted felons are permanently disenfranchized unless voting rights were restored personally by the governor; Vilsack did away with this process. [ [ Iowa Joins Ranks of States to Restore Voting Rights to Felons] ]

For most of Tom Vilsack's tenure as Governor, Republicans held effective majorities in the Iowa General Assembly. Following the November 2, 2004, elections, the 50-member Senate was evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Republicans held a 51-49 majority in the House of Representatives.

During the 2005 legislative session, Vilsack signed into law greater restrictions that require products containing the active ingredient pseudoephedrine to be sold behind pharmacy counters, as opposed to open-access at open-shelf level. Those wishing to buy such products must show identification and sign a log book. The new law, designed to reduce methamphetamine use in Iowa, took effect on May 21 2005.

Following Kelo v. City of New London, Vilsack vetoed but was overridden on Iowa House file 2351, a bill to restrict Iowa's use of eminent domain."I am particularly troubled with the provisions that restrict the use of eminent domain for redevelopment purposes to areas defined as slum or blighted."--Tom Vilsack, veto letter for Iowa House file 2351.

Vilsack is a former member of the National Governors Association Executive Committee. He was chair of the Democratic Governors Association in 2004. He was also chair of the Governors Biotechnology Partnership, the Governors Ethanol Coalition, and the Midwest Governors Conference, and has also been chair and vice chair of the National Governors Association's committee on Natural Resources, where he worked to develop the NGA's farm and energy policies.

Prior to Democratic Presidential candidate Senator John Kerry's selection of Senator John Edwards, Vilsack was thought to be high on the list of potential running mates for Kerry in the 2004 presidential election.

In 2005, Vilsack established Heartland PAC, a political action committee aimed at electing Democratic Governors. In the first report, he raised over half a million dollars.

Vilsack left office in 2007; he did not seek a third term. Succeeded by Chet Culver, he became the first Democratic governor since Clyde L. Herring seventy years earlier to be succeeded by another Democrat.

2008 presidential campaign

On 30 November, 2006, Tom Vilsack became the second Democrat (after Mike Gravel) to officially announce intentions to run for the presidency in the 2008 election. In his announcement speech, he said "America's a great country, and now I have the opportunity to begin the process, the legal process of filing papers to run for President of the United States." Vilsack dropped out of the race on 23 February, 2007 citing monetary constraints. [ [ Thank You Video] ]

Vilsack's campaign made significant use of social media by maintaining an active MySpace profile, a collection of viral video clips on YouTube, a Facebook profile and a videoblog on, Eric. [ Vilsack Wants To Appeal To ME and YOU.] "Huffington Post".]

Views on Iraq

Vilsack's stance on the war is critical of President Bush but hesitant to call for an immediate and complete pullout from Iraq: "I don't think we're losing in Iraq, It appears to be a draw. People are upset by the fact that their kids are over there and there doesn’t seem to be any end to this whole process. It’s not pacifism that makes people think this way. They’re questioning the credibility and competence of the Commander-in-Chief." [ [ New Yorker] ]

On December 5th, Vilsack announced that he favored withdrawing most of the U.S. forces from Iraq and leaving a small force in the Northern region for a limited period. While acknowledging that a withdrawal would lead to more violence, he felt that it would be the only way for the Iraqi government to take control of their country. [ [ Vilsack wants smaller U.S. force in Iraq] ]

Views on energy security

The Vilsack Energy Security Agenda sets out a strategy to dramatically reduce U.S. reliance on foreign energy and to cut the United States' carbon emissions. It also calls for replacing the Department of Energy with a new Department of Energy Security, to oversee and redefine the federal government’s role in energy policy. The reorganized department will act as an institutional advocate for innovation in energy policy, and will ensure accountability as the nation works towards achieving its energy security goals. Through this new department, America’s overriding objective in energy policy will be to make America the unquestioned leader in clean energy, enhancing our national security and our economic strength. [ [ Tom Vilsack for President ] ]

Endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president

On March 26, 2007 Governor Vilsack officially endorsed Senator Hillary Clinton in her bid for President in 2008.

Governor Vilsack was quoted saying: "At this critical time, Hillary Clinton has the experience, strength and vision our country needs to get us back on track and moving in the right direction ...there is no candidate who will create a stronger and better America than Hillary Clinton." [ [ - blogHillary ] ]


External links

* [ Vilsack to make White House run] from the "Des Moines Register" includes links to biography and related coverage
* [ MySpace page]
* [ page]
* [ Follow the Money] campaign contributions
* [ On the Issues - Tom Vilsack] issue positions and quotes
* [ Project Vote Smart] profile
* [ The New York Times - Tom Vilsack News] news stories and commentary

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