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Rus Thompson: Tea Party Activist

Get to know a Buffalonian...

Like Carl Paladino, the candidate he and his Tea Party compadres are supporting for governor, Rus Thompson is brutally frank. And he is often angry—at waste and corruption in government, at ineptitude and dishonesty among politicians, at the failures of both the country’s primary political parties. For all that frustration, the Grand Island contractor is one of the kindest, most thoughtful people you could ever meet. Unless, of course, you hold elective office.

What are some of the primary tenets of the Tea Party movement and how would they benefit Western New York?

You must remember this: We are focused on state government. Getting Albany back on track and recruiting candidates for the State Senate. (Although we did draft Carl Paladino to run for governor.) If and when we accomplish our goals, Upstate and Western New York will benefit by having representation and leadership from here, not downstate, where their policies dictate state politics. Haven’t we had enough of that already? They had their chance and have driven this state into the fiscal and ethical abyss.

How do you feel about the criticism that the Tea Party movement has been hijacked by the Republican Party and other right-wing organizations?

People can say what they want about us, but we know who we are and surely we are not run by the Republicans. They have had their chance and, like the Democrats, have screwed up everything. We do not focus on parties, we are the people. All colors, races, and walks of life. We all work for a living and do this because it is the right thing to do.

Do you feel that the extreme language that some Tea Partiers use—allusions to Hitler, Stalin, the Holocaust, etc.—hurt your credibility?

There are fools and nutcases in every reform movement and every party. They say stupid and insulting things. At the same time, the people that are opposed to us throw out slurs themselves to discredit us. Like Nancy Pelosi and her “astroturf” statements and the left calling us “teabaggers” in a nasty, derogatory way.

How does the issue of tolls on the Grand Island bridge illustrate the inequity between upstate and downstate New York?

It isn’t just the Grand Island tolls, it is also the Williamsville and Lackawanna toll booths. We are getting slapped with a commuter tax when we have no alternative route. The tolls across the Thruway were supposed to be gone by 1996. We live in a depressed area and are subjected to an unfair, unequal tax. Our legislators are either powerless to do anything or choose not to due to pressure from downstate politicos.

New York is historically known for its dysfunctional politics and bureaucratic state legislature, is there a working model anywhere that the state should emulate?

I have lived in five states and government seems to work elsewhere. Why not here? Virginia and Tennessee are both examples. The government setup in New York is a good one, it is simply corrupt and unbalanced. New York City dictates policy that hurts us in WNY and Upstate. Unless we somehow separate them from us, or add weighted voting, they will continue to set destructive policies for the rest of the state.

Are you considering a run for office?

I do not want to have to run. I refuse to see any politician run for re-election unopposed. They cannot walk back into office without the public seeing some sort of debate and seeing where they stand on issues pertinent to their district. I plan on taking the State Senate, at least four or five seats, and forming a voting block. We saw already that neither side is willing to work with the other—just look at the Senate coup as an example. It is party versus party, and no one represents the people. I am not in this to make friends with Democratic or Republican legislators.

You’ve been featured several times on Glenn Beck’s show. What was that like and what are your thoughts on the controversial pundit?

What can I say. I sat in a room, all alone listening to his show in an earpiece, stared at a camera, pretending that he was the camera. Difficult to do but after I watched the interview, I seemed to have pulled it off. I hardly ever get the chance to watch or listen to his show. Anyone on the right seems to be controversial, though. The left calls right radio “hate radio,” yet I have listened to left radio and felt the same way. It’s sad that each side is so poisonous to each other.

BONUS: Where did the other “s” in your name go?

I was born with rusty-colored hair and freckles, thus the nickname Rusty. As I grew older and majored in art in high school I dropped the “ty.” I signed all my drawings and paintings “Rus” with a circle around it coming off the “s.”

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