BLET's Kinsman begins 2006 campaign
Getting an early start and building momentum for the 2006 elections, Brother James Kinsman - Chairman of the BLET's Wisconsin State Legislative Board - has announced that he is running for political office in his home state.
Brother Kinsman, 34, hopes to take government control out of the hands of career politicians and return it to the people by running for a State Assembly office in Wisconsin's 94th Assembly District.
"Every day when I turn on the TV, radio, or read the paper, I see all the partisan rantings and the partisan politics," he said. "But it's the people who are stuck in the middle - those who are busting their humps to scrape together a living. Instead of focusing on real issues - like prescription drug costs, jobs, and healthcare - career politicians are preoccupied with partisan politics. I want to bring representation back to the people."
Brother Kinsman has likened career politicians to "ticks on a dog's (butt)," as he told his hometown newspaper, the La Crosse Tribune, in an interview in June.
"My motto is 'of the peole, by the people, and for the people,' not 'of the party, by the party and for the party,'" he said.
His opponent in the upcoming election is 10-year incumbent Mike Heubsch. That's one reason why Kinsman decided to begin his campaign early, even though the elections won't be held until November of 2006.
"When you're taking on a 10 year incumbent who is the Assembly Party Leader, you need an early start to gain momentum and raise as much money as possible," Kinsman said. "I plan to hit the ground running in 2006."
BLET National President Don Hahs praised Brother Kinsman for his forward thinking.
"I commend Brother Kinsman for not only running for political office, but for planning ahead and doing things right," President Hahs said. "It is important for union members to run for political office so that working people have a voice in the State Houses and on Capitol Hill. I encourage other BLET members who may be inspired by Brother Kinsman's campaign to following his lead."
Brother Kinsman served in the U.S. Army and then held various odd jobs before finding work with the Burlington Northern Santa Fe in 1998. He started out in the maintenance of way department before transferring to train, yard and engine (TY&E) service later that same year. In March of 2002, he joined the Brotherhood and then earned promotion to locomotive engineer in July of 2002.
Immediately prior to working for BNSF, Kinsman worked as a welder at a non-union factory in Wyoming. There, he learned the importance of belonging to a union and the risks involved with union organizing.
"The day before Thanksgiving, I was told not to come back to work," he said. "A select group of co-workers and I were fired for attending a union meeting put on by the United Steelworkers of America. Management was afraid we'd bring the union to our workplace."
Brother Kinsman said he has always been a labor rights advocate, and his experience as a non-union welder has served as motivation and inspiration over the years.
The experience motivated him to become a first-term BLET State Legislative Board Chairman. He is currently the youngest Chairman serving the Brotherhood in that capacity.
He was also inspired to make change for the citizens of Wisconsin. "I want to make an impact here in Wisconsin," he said. "I don't tread lightly and I want to make positive change."
Kinsman finally decided to run for public office after a lot of discussion with labor leaders throughout the state, but more importantly, only after a long discussion with his family.
Brother Kinsman grew up as a foster child, and what was missing from his childhood has helped him truly appreciate what he has today.
"We all have one goal - we want what's best for our families," he said. "We all want to put our families first - that's what's important."
He and his wife of 11 years, Tara, have two children: Alexandria, 10, and Nathan, 9.
© 2005 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen