Tom Vilsack '72 Announces Candidacy for President in 2008
Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, a 1972 graduate of Hamilton College, announced on November 9 his intention to seek the Democratic party nomination for president in 2008. Vilsack is the first Democrat to formally announce his candidacy.
Vilsack was born in Pittsburgh, orphaned at birth, and adopted in 1951. He entered Hamilton in 1968, where he met Christie Bell from Mount Pleasant, Iowa, who was attending Kirkland, the coordinate college for women on College Hill. After graduating from Hamilton with a degree in history, Vilsack entered Albany Law School. Bell and Vilsack were married, and following Vilsack's graduation from Albany Law School in 1975, they settled in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, where Vilsack established his law practice.
He entered the political arena when the mayor's office became vacant in 1987 and quickly gained a reputation for getting things done. His next stop was the Iowa State Senate, where he served from 1992-98. Vilsack was elected Iowa's 39th governor in 1998, the first Democratic governor of the state in more than 30 years. He was re-elected to a second four-year term in 2002 and chose not to run for a third term in 2006, instead opting to take steps toward running for president. Vilsack established a national fundraising organization last year aimed at helping Democrats in the 2006 elections. He made his maiden trip to New Hampshire as a prospective presidential candidate in June and returned to the lead-off primary state in September.
Matt McKenna '72, Vilsack's classmate at Hamilton and senior vice president at PepsiCo Inc., said "Tom's themes of community, education, and enthusiasm for causes would not come as a surprise to any of his classmates at Hamilton College. We knew him as someone who liked competing but liked winning, too. It should not be a surprise that he has never lost an election," McKenna said.
Vilsack was a finalist to be then-presidential nominee John Kerry's running mate in 2004. Vilsack returned to Hamilton College in 2001, when he gave the Commencement address and received an honorary degree. The Vilsacks' son Jess, is a 2000 graduate of Hamilton and son Doug is a graduate of Colorado College.
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