Election Issues

Tom Mihalek/AP
Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty

Campaign Profiles: Key Speakers at the Republican National Convention: Thursday

September 04, 2008
by findingDulcinea Staff
In the build up to Sen. John McCain’s official acceptance of the Republican nomination for president, several supporters will speak on his behalf on Thursday, including Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota, former Pennsylvania governor and ex-Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge and Governor Charlie Crist of Florida.

Tim Pawlenty

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty prides himself on his authentically blue-collar ideals. He grew up in a working-class section of St. Paul, Minnesota, an area known for its stockyards. His father was a truck driver and his mother died of cancer when Tim was in his teens. The first in his family to get a college degree, he earned a B.A. and J.D. from the University of Minnesota.

Pawlenty practiced law, served in the Eagan City Council and was a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives for 10 years, four of which he served as Majority Leader. Pawlenty planned to run for the U.S. Senate, but many Republicans thought that Norm Coleman had the better chance of winning, so Pawlenty ran for governor instead. He is currently in his second term. He is married to Mary, a former district court judge, and they have two daughters.

As one of John McCain’s national co-chairs, Pawlenty has stressed that the Republicans pay more attention to emerging issues that he does not think have been properly addressed by his party, including affordable health care and alternative energy.
A rumored choice for vice president early in the election, Pawlenty has promoted a bigger tent approach to expanding the Republican Party, suggesting that the GOP become the “party of Sam’s Club, not just the country club.”

Tom Ridge

Tom Ridge is currently John McCain’s national campaign co-chairman and an advisor to the Republican nominee.

A former governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge rose to national prominence as the first advisor and director of the U.S. Office of Homeland Security and its adjoining Council.

Appointed by George W. Bush as the first Assistant to the President on Homeland Security—a position that helped create the Office of Homeland Security—Ridge accepted the role of the first Secretary of Homeland Security in 2003. He served in this position until 2005, and then entered the private sector.
Born in Pittsburgh’s Steel Valley in 1945, Ridge earned a scholarship to Harvard before being drafted to serve in Vietnam during his first year of law school. After earning the Bronze Star, Ridge returned to become the first enlisted Vietnam combat veteran to be elected to the United State Congress. Ridge was re-elected to the House of Representatives six times before winning the first of two terms as governor of Pennsylvania. His wife, Michele, is the former executive director of the Erie County Library system; the couple has two children.

The former governor was an early possibility for McCain’s vice-presidential pick, but was not selected. Ridge has actively campaigned for McCain in his home state of Pennsylvania, which is expected to be a battleground state in November.

Charlie Crist

The current governor of Florida, Charlie Crist has experienced a steady rise to the top of state politics; he, too, was supposedly on John McCain’s short list of vice-presidential candidates before the selection of Sarah Palin.

Viewed by many as a centrist governor, Crist’s broad legislative record has gained him accolades from both sides of the aisle since first entering elected office as a state congressman 16 years ago.

Born in Altoona, Pennsylvania, in 1956 to a Greek-Cypriot physician father who had shortened the family name from Christodoulos, Crist and his family relocated to Florida while the future governor was still young.

Crist initially attended Wake Forest University, but completed his undergraduate degree at Florida State, and then earned a law degree from Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama.
After several years spent as the general counsel for the Baseball Commissioner’s Office and in private practice, Crist turned his attention to public service in 1992, earning a seat in the Florida State Senate on a platform that stressed public safety.

While he lost a bid for a U.S. Senate seat in 1998, his campaign provided him with the recognition needed to win a special election in 2000 for Education Commissioner and Attorney General two years later.

Succeeding Jeb Bush in the governor’s mansion in 2006, Crist called himself the “People’s Governor” and has pursued corporate malfeasance and the reinstatement of nonviolent felons’ right to vote, among many other efforts.

Crist, who endorsed John McCain for president in January 2008, is engaged to be married to Carole Rome.

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