Tommy Thompson is running to be the GOP nominee in the race for Wisconsin's open U.S. Senate seat. From 2001-2005, he was President George W. Bush's Secretary of Health and Human Services. Before that, from 1987-2001, he was governor of Wisconsin. He also served from 1966-1987 in the Wisconsin state legislature. In 1979, he ran for Congress and lost, and in 2008, he dropped out after a short-lived bid for the presidency.
In all, Thompson has served 35 years in public office and another four years as a Cabinet official, not counting the time he spent running for office. Thompson is 70 years old, meaning that he has spent at least half his life in politics.
Nevertheless, on Tuesday, Thompson insisted that he is not a "professional politician."
His comments came during a forum with conservative Wisconsin radio host Charlie Skyes, who asked the four Republican Senate candidates whether they saw themselves as professional politicians or businessmen.
Former Rep. Mark Neumann, state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and businessman Eric Hovde are also running for the GOP nomination.
"I'm not a professional politician and never have been," said Thompson. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel noted that Thompson also said he had spent the past few years in the private sector and continues to run several businesses while running for Senate.
Former Massachusetts governor and current GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney also likes to distance himself from professional politicians, recently saying, "I'm not really a politician. I guess I kinda am, because I was governor for four years and I've run for office. But my heart is [that of] a conservative businessman."
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, meanwhile, is running for president as a Washington outsider and often decries the "elites" in the establishment. In 2008, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) -- who was then House Speaker -- also insisted she was not a "Washington insider."
UPDATE: 2:00 p.m. -- In 2008, Thompson spoke to the Annenberg Center for Education and Outreach about how, after working in government for 38 years, he was finally entering the private sector.
"I'm a rehab public servant. Thirty-eight years in the government," he said. "And now I'm in the public sector -- or the private sector. For the first time in my life, I'm making money."
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