ESCANABA, Mich. (AP/WJMN) — Tom Casperson, a former state lawmaker from the Upper Peninsula who cast a key vote to expand Medicaid and built alliances with labor unions, has died.
The 61-year-old Republican from Escanaba had been stricken with cancer.
Casperson was a conservative voice on taxes and regulation who frequently criticized state agencies for how they regulated wetlands and forests.
He cast a key vote to expand Medicaid during Gov. Rick Snyder’s administration. He was praised by unions for voting against right-to-work legislation, which made union membership voluntary. The bill, however, was signed into law.
Several political leaders released statements in response to his death:
“Tom Casperson was an unwavering public servant, who made sure Yoopers always felt like their voices were heard in our state Capitol at every point during the legislative process. While our politics varied, Tom proved that it was still possible to find common ground and work together to do right by the people of Michigan,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, said. “As Senate Democratic Leader, I was proud to work across the aisle with state Senator Casperson to expand health care coverage through the Healthy Michigan plan, which now ensures coverage for more than 800,000 Michiganders across our state. Despite his diagnosis, Tom remained committed to doing the people’s work as he battled this vicious disease. My thoughts are with Tom’s family during this difficult time.”
Whitmer ordered flags lowered Wednesday to honor Casperson.
“Tom was a great friend, a courageous patriot, and a good and faithful servant for the people of Michigan,” U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar, R-Midland, said. “I always enjoyed working with him in the state legislature, where he was a tenacious advocate for the Upper Peninsula and its people. His work will benefit UP communities for decades to come and I join Tom’s family and friends in mourning his passing.”
“I am incredibly saddened to hear about the passing of my friend, Senator Tom Casperson, after his long battle with cancer,” Michigan Republican Party Chair Laura Cox said. “I had the distinct pleasure of serving with him in the legislature, and I was always inspired by his commitment to our shared values and to the people of Michigan. Tom Casperson will be remembered for his dedicated service to the Upper Peninsula, and he will stand as an example for future generations of public servants looking to better their communities. On behalf of all Michigan Republicans, I want to send our most heartfelt condolences to Senator Casperson’s family and friends.”
“Sen. Tom Casperson was a giant in the Upper Peninsula. His passing leaves an unfillable hole in the hearts of those who loved him and in the lives of the people he served for so many years,” said Sen. Ed McBroom, R-Waucedah Township, said. “Tom was a brother, a friend, a mentor, a confidant and a partner in both work and fun. He helped me get into professional politics and guided me every step of the way. To say that he meant the world to me would be an understatement. To have Tom Casperson on your side was to have a teammate unwilling to quit, and that is part of what made him such a beloved and effective legislator in the U.P. “