Tom Hanson is the Republican Party congressional candidate for the 5th district. He has been working in commercial real estate for over 20 years and created Hanson Commercial Real Estate in 1990. The 54-year-old said his goal is to serve two terms in congress because he doesn't believe in career politicians. Hanson spoke with Windy City Times about running in a generally democratic district and his liberal Republican views.
Windy City Times: You call yourself a 'liberal Republican.' Could you explain what this means?
Tom Hanson: I typically just say I am willing to make compromises. I'm for equal rights and for gay rights. I am for women's choice. I'm for immigrants becoming citizens but I'm not for amnesty. I'm willing to cross party lines, as John McCain has done many times, to make things happen.
WCT: Are the equal rights [ and ] gay rights the specific issues that you feel set you apart from other Republicans?
TH: Well, yeah. I'm all on my own. I'm in my own brand, actually. I don't have any Republican Party support actually. Let me make it real simple- there are a lot of democrats that vote democrat because they don't feel accepted in the Republican Party. I'm offering the opportunity to fairly represent the 5th district and I have had an incredible response from people who want to vote who are democrats who want to vote Republican.
WCT: This past summer you announced your campaign the same day as the Chicago Pride Parade, and you even participated in the parade wearing only an American flag Speedo. Why did you pick this day—and why the Speedo?
TH: We got appointed late in April and it took two months for us to get our Web site put together. It was somewhat coincidental that it was around the same time but it was a large group of people [ at the parade ] , there were 450,000 people. My campaign is mainly putting up posters and handing out business cards and I'm not going to do any TV advertising and although it is a federal requirement that I have to have a donation site on my Web site, I really don't want donations. I don't need the money. I've got the posters, I've got the business cards. We've walked around and gone all over the 5th District, you know, we're doing it like the old way. We're out there meeting people.
WCT: So it was just coincidental?
TH: Well no, I realized we had to get [ the Web site ] done by the end of June and we basically looked at the calendar of events and I contacted the Chicago pride organization and I said that I wanted to be in it. For several weeks they resisted my efforts to be in the parade because a Republican in the late '90s was in the parade and he protested gay rights and they honestly didn't want a Republican in there. I was allowed in the parade after some people dropped out. So then I thought how was I going to make an impact in the parade? I'm a Republican, nobody's going to want to listen to me. So it just came to me. I said maybe I'll wear an American flag Speedo and my wife said, 'If you do that, I'll hold you to it.' Honestly two-or-three weeks before the parade, every night, about two or three o'clock in the morning, I would wake up and think 'Am I out of my mind?'
WCT: What experience do you have working with the LGBT community?
TH: I don't. I don't have any government experience. I don't have any LGBT experience. I'm just an average guy that's willing to serve the country, put in his time. It would be a sacrifice that I would be away from my daughter and my wife sporadically, and if I am going to make a sacrifice like that I am going to make things happen.
WCT: The Employment Non-Discrimination Act currently does not protect LGBT people, how do you feel about an amendment to make it all inclusive so that everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, is protected?
TH: All people are created equal. There shouldn't be a reason why someone can't get a job whatever their sex or their sexual orientation, or whatever their issue is. You know in the military, there is no discrimination, well there is some discrimination, but the best person goes to the top. The military is probably the best example of being fair to people, in the majority of manners.
WCT: Let's talk about 'Don't Ask: Don't Tell,' the military policy- Do you feel it is necessary?
TH: The gigantic thing about this back in the '90's with the Clintons, it didn't seem like they could find anything that could work, and it seems like 'Don't Ask: Don't Tell' seems to work.
WCT: Could you outline specific goals that you have if you are elected?
TH: I think that the most important area of America starts with our young people. You're only young once. That is the most important time to help children develop their social and cognitive skills. I'm head of Life Directions, I am one of the board of directors, and we go into the inner cities of Chicago, the very poor areas, gang-infested areas, and we mentor seventh and eight graders. We mentor kids who don't want to go down the path of selling drugs or getting into drugs. And a lot of these kids live in single-parent families, they're exposed to drug and alcohol addiction and the gangs are pressuring them. What I want to do is give them the option of having an after school program where they can get tutored, where they can play games or just network or get on the computers. This is what I want to be known for. Not for cutting taxes or cutting government. I want to be known as the guy that did this.
See www.tomhansonforcongress.com .