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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Longtime senator visits Heritage Center, VA hospital during Leavenworth visit

  • While speaking Wednesday in Leavenworth, former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole assured people he had no agenda for the local visit.
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  • While speaking Wednesday in Leavenworth, former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole assured people he had no agenda for the local visit.
    "I don't want any of your money, and that's got to be a relief," Dole quipped.
    The 90-year-old former senator from Kansas later said, "I can announce that I'm not running."
    Dole said he's touring the state to say, "Thank you." The former senator said he doesn't know how many more visits he'll be able to make.
    Dole said whenever he mentions visiting Leavenworth, people think he's going to prison.
    "But, I'm not that kind of politician," he said.
    His stop at the Heritage Center in downtown Leavenworth came after he had visited other northeast Kansas cities, including Tonganoxie.
    He flew to Washington, D.C., on Wednesday afternoon, but he plans to return to Kansas as he visits each county in the state, Leavenworth Mayor Mark Preisinger said.
    Preisinger introduced Dole at the Heritage Center. But, the mayor said the longtime senator needed no introduction to any Kansan.
    "We respect him as a true hero," Preisinger said.
    A native of Russell, Dole represented Kansas in the U.S. Senate from 1969 to 1996. He also served served eight years in the U.S. House of Representatives.
    In 1996, he was the Republican nominee for president, but lost the election to Bill Clinton.
    In 1976, Dole was President Gerald Ford's running mate for vice president. Ford lost to Jimmy Carter.
    Dole also served in the Army during World War II and was seriously wounded.
    He began his comments Wednesday by thanking all World War II veterans.
    The former senator also said he wanted to thank people who have supported him throughout the years and even thank those who may not have supported him.
    "I tried to do my best," Dole said. "I always remembered where I was from."
    Dole's comments did stray into politics.
    He complained about political gridlock in Washington, D.C., and questioned why the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was passed.
    When asked about possible presidential candidates in 2016, Dole said former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton "beats everybody 10 to 1" on the Democratic side.
    He said the GOP's nominee has not yet emerged. He said there are a lot of young candidates who need more seasoning, though some Republican governors may be good presidential contenders.
    He said former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush also may be a strong candidate.
    Among the people who were on hand to see Dole on Wednesday was Leavenworth City Attorney Tom Dawson.
    Page 2 of 2 - Dawson said he served as the Leavenworth campaign manager for Dole's first run for the Senate in 1968.
    "It was just fabulous," Dawson said.
    Dawson recalled later visiting Dole and the senator commenting on how people such as former White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman were not dependable employees for then-President Richard Nixon.
    Dawson said Dole's comments came before the break-in at the Watergate office complex in Washington, D.C., which eventually led to Nixon's resignation.
    Also in the audience was Rheta Wagner, who had been part of a group known as "Dolls for Dole" when he visited Leavenworth County during his first senatorial run in 1968.
    Wagner said her mother had kept the "Dolls for Dole" sash and hat from the 1968 campaign. She wore them Wednesday.
    "I thought I needed to come just to see him again," Wagner said.
    After Dole's stop at the Heritage Center, he made an impromptu visit to the Eisenhower VA Medical Center before leaving Leavenworth. He reportedly met with a handful of patients at the VA.
    “To me, no trip back to Kansas would be complete without stopping to greet some of our nation’s heroes,” Dole said in a news release. “We are a grateful nation and always will be.”

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