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This Week’s LION: Ex-Congressman Tom Marino

When Tom Marino was elected for his fifth term of office for the U.S. House of Representatives, he was confident it would be his last campaign. What Tom did not expect was a life-threatening illness the first week of January of this year that almost cost him his life. It was a terribly difficult decision,

When Tom Marino was elected for his fifth term of office for the U.S. House of Representatives, he was confident it would be his last campaign. What Tom did not expect was a life-threatening illness the first week of January of this year that almost cost him his life. It was a terribly difficult decision, but for the sake of his family and his constituency, he knew that he needed to resign from the U.S. Congress.

Sitting with Tom and lovely wife Edie at their home recently, I had the opportunity to discuss his health, his history, his hopes, and his hero. Tom says he feels “fine” and looking at him, he certainly looks fit and healthy. But the reality is that he has had three surgeries since January and currently only has less than half usage of one of his two kidneys. He is in surprisingly good spirits given his condition, knowing that others like him would be on dialysis, but he has “defied the odds,” largely because he knows he has some of the best physicians in the world who are overseeing his medical process.

Tom Marino has always been a fighter, working at a bakery right out of high school till the age of 30. Then through pure grit and determination got a bachelor’s degree from Lycoming College and then went on to get a law degree (J.D.) from Dickinson School of Law in Carlisle. From 1992-2002, he served as the Lycoming County District Attorney, which Tom said was the best job he ever had. (Especially getting to bust down doors of crack houses!) Tom obviously did his job very well, because in 2002 President George W. Bush appointed him United States Attorney for the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania.

In deciding to run for Congress in 2010, he knew he had an uphill battle because, unlike many who run for Congress, Tom Marino is far from rich. In fact, his wealth has consistently ranked in the bottom 10% of all members of Congress. Even a bare-bones Congressional election can cost in the neighborhood of a quarter of a million dollars, so it took many grassroots contributions to get him elected. It was a true blue-collared campaign.

Once elected in 2010, Tom Marino was an unknown until one fateful August afternoon in 2014. Tom was on the House floor, making some comments on border funding. When he left the podium, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi suddenly jumped up from her seat and came chasing him across the House floor, shaking her finger and openly chastising him for his comments. These dramatics were all captured beautifully by C-SPAN and then YouTubed to the world. At that moment, Congressman Tom Marino became a folk hero. He remarks that even today, five years after the event, he still has people come up to him at airports all over the country and ask to shake his hand for shaking up Nasty Nancy.

But Tom also received notoriety for becoming the first member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump for the U.S. presidency in 2015 openly. Tom saw something in the man that others did not. When Wolf Blitzer from CNN interviewed Tom, he openly asked, “How can you support this guy?” Tom responded, “Look at America! We are $20 trillion in debt, 20 million people are out of work, welfare has skyrocketed, health care is a disaster — and here is a guy who has made $10 billion, so he must know how to get things done. We need someone like him to straighten out this country.”

Tom Marino designed a plan for Donald Trump to win Pennsylvania, something that a Republican had not done since George H.W. Bush in 1988. On election night in November of 2016, Donald Trump called Tom on the telephone and relayed that pollsters predicted he would not win Pennsylvania, and without it, he could not win the presidency. Tom told him the pollsters were dead wrong; PA was going red! President-elect Donald Trump called him back at 12:30 a.m. and said, “You were right, Tom, and thank you!” Tom Marino has stayed close to President Trump throughout his presidency and still keeps in touch today.

Tom is very thankful as he looks back at his political career, for the fantastic staff he had working with him, for some amazing legislation that he had a hand in getting passed, and for many near and dear friends he has picked up over the decades. Tom Marino now works in the private sector for a software firm as a consultant and lobbyist, and his medical situation may yet require dialysis or perhaps a kidney transplant. But Tom and Edie Marino seem amazingly serene, an attitude that comes from the willingness to take risks, accepting the highs and lows as they come, always looking forward with hope and back with joy.

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