Davenport businessman Mike Whalen is kicking off his campaign for Iowa’s first congressional seat today (Monday). Whalen is the owner of the Iowa Machine Shed restaurants, and he started his day with an event at the first Machine Shed in Davenport. “The number one thing we need to do is to have a discussion of how do we make sure that in the future the finances in Washington, particularly the entitlements that we’ve committed to to the Baby Boomers that are coming up in retirement — 77 million of them — what does that mean in terms of our ability to compete globally in jobs,” Whalen says. “I think it’s important to say we need to have fixes in Medicare. We need to address the problem with Social Security.” Whalen, who is a graduate of the Harvard Law School, now owns 19 restaurants and nine hotels in six states. Whalen faces former Iowa Republican party chairman Brian Kennedy and state Representative Bill Dix of Shell Rock in a G-O-P primary for a shot at the congressional seat now held by Jim Nussle. Nussle is running for governor in 2006. Whalen says he wants to take the lessons he’s learned in the restaurant business to Washington. He says it’s important to do something about crippling healthcare costs. Whalen says we shouldn’t put burdens on our kids and grandchildren they can’t meet, to ensure that 30 or 40 years from now “we’re still building green tractors and combines in eastern Iowa.” Whalen says healthcare needs to become “personal, private and portable.” The Republican candidate also says he wants to see tax reform in Washington. He tells the story of a business-owner friend who, for 25 years, has put his tax return on a scale and weighed it: “And guess what?” he asks the audience, “it’s never gotten lighter.” Whalen says in his 27 years in business he’s been hearing there will be tax simplification and less regulation, but instead getting more. Whalen owns 19 restaurants and nine hotels in six states.