Kansas House candidate Mike Thompson has done more things in his life than Forrest Gump. Gas pumper. Railroad man. Shipyard man. Sailor. Navy Seal. Army chaplain. Hospital chaplain. Welder. Police officer. City councilman.
But just to set the record straight, he’s never been a weatherman.
He only shares his name with state Sen. Mike Thompson, a well-known former television meteorologist in Kansas City.
“Yes, every day someone asks me if I’m the weatherman,” Thompson said in an interview Thursday. It’s happened ever since the Oklahoma native and Topeka high school graduate came back to the area from the Army in 2008.
“A couple on the street, just the other day I was on my way to church, they waved and everything, and I realized I had left my campaign signs on the side of my truck and they thought I was the weatherman,” Thompson says.
The two Mike Thompsons have already had some fun with the situation, appearing together at a recent candidate meet-and-greet.
“We look enough alike that he said he’s run into people on the campaign trail that think he is me,” Thompson the senator and weatherman told The Heartlander. “Thankfully, we see eye to eye on a lot of the same issues. I have met him a number of times, and he is a good man and has an impressive background that I think will serve him, and his district, well.
“We agree on a number of issues, including energy policy, right to life, and an overall approach to limited government that will make him a valuable ally in the House.”
But while they share politics in common – both are conservative Republicans – their political situations vary greatly.
While the famous former weatherman is a sitting state senator from Republican-friendly Johnson County, the new Mike Thompson on the scene is running for House District 33 in Democratic stronghold Wyandotte County. In fact, Thompson is running to succeed the retiring Tom Burroughs, a former Democrat House minority leader.
Why would Wyandotte County choose a Republican representative?
“Well, people are ready for a change – the economy, taxes,” he says. “We’ve been predominantly Democrat for many years, and so I think it’s time for a new voice.”
Thompson’s is certainly the voice of experience, with all the above professions on his resume. After serving with, then joining SEAL Team 2, he was a police officer in Lenexa and a contract welder in Oklahoma, before feeling the call to ministry. He ministered in prisons and in five different hospitals, and then, at age 42, went into the Army to be a chaplain in 1993.
His first assignment was with the 82nd Airborne. “I hadn’t jumped out of airplanes since ’77 with the Navy,” he laughs. It was a soft landing: His Army tour lasted over 18 years.
Thompson touts not just the variety of his work history, but also the recurrent theme that welds them all together, and which he says would serve him and voters well in the Legislature: integrity and honesty.
“I’ve done a lot of things in my life that are relational type things, so the ability to listen to people and be open,” he says of his top qualities.
Now 71 and finishing a second term on the Bonner Springs City Council, Thompson says he feels the state House of Representatives is a new calling.
“I feel all my life has been a life of service. I never thought of it as, ‘Well, I’m going to be a servant of the people.’ I look back now, and that’s what I’ve done, and I felt led to do that.
“We need people to go into the political arena. We need conscientious people to come forward, instead of complaining about what’s going on. You participate in democracy. It’s not a sideline sport. And so, I decided to get involved. Just felt led to do that.”
He says his priorities in the Legislature, and the ones he’s hearing about door-to-door, would be the same as on the Bonner Springs council, only on a bigger scale: the economy and jobs.
“When our community prospers, our citizens prosper,” he says.
Speaking of new voices, here’s something you never hear anymore: a political candidate praising someone of the other party. Asked how he would be different from his predecessor Burroughs, Thompson simply says of the retiring Democrat, “Tom’s a good man.”
Thompson would rather talk not about opponents or predecessors, but about the substantial experience he can offer as a legislator.
“From my military, from my counseling, from my chaplain work, even before that, I worked with people,” he says. “Ninety percent of what I did in the military and the hospitals was counseling. And so, the ability to listen to people, listen to different views, the ability to be open-minded. And integrity. So that’s what I can bring to the table.”
Others have taken note: Ahead of the Aug. 2 primary election, Thompson has won the endorsements of Kansans for Life, the Kansas Chamber, and Kansas Family Voice – a nonprofit that describes itself as “a Christ-centered organization” working for “a Kansas where God is honored, religious freedom flourishes, families thrive, and life is cherished.”
Thompson the weatherman says his Senate district happens to be changing slightly due to redistricting in 2024 – and will overlap some with the other Mike Thompson’s House district, should he win election.
“They won’t know which of us to praise or to cuss!” jokes the senator.
Still, if voters want to think of a Rep. Mike Thompson as the weatherman, that’s fine with him too.