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April 16, 2014

Senate hopefuls meet in first debate

OKLA. CITY —  Accountability to the American people and the $17.5 trillion debt continues to be a major issue in the race for U.S. Senate office being vacated by retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn.

The Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee hosted a debate Wednesday for three of the seven Republicans running for the U.S. Senate seat that is being vacated by retiring U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn.

Citizens gathered at Olivet Baptist Church in Oklahoma City to learn more about the senatorial goals of former state Sen. Randy Brogdon of Owasso, Congressman James Lankford of Edmond and former state Speaker of the House T.W. Shannon of Lawton.

Shannon said he has a record of standing against debt. When Speaker of the House, Shannon led representatives to pass a new state budget without incurring new debt for the state.

“We said no. It’s always tempting to take out the state credit card or the federal credit card to pay for benefits for people now that our kids and grand kids have to pay for later,” said Shannon, 36.

Medicaid expansion was successfully opposed at the state Capitol during Shannon’s tenure as Speaker, he said.

“I fundamentally believe that we need to get the federal government out of health care,” Shannon said.

The nation’s debt does not include the unfunded entitlement programs in the U.S., he said. Every child being born in America will inherit $174,000 worth of debt because of decisions made in Washington, D.C., Shannon said.

Shannon looked toward the crowd and said they could be the first generation of Americans to allow their children to inherit a lower standard of living because national leaders are unwilling to solve the debt crisis.

However, Shannon said he does not believe in military budget cuts that would decrease the strength of the Armed Forces.

“In fact we have a situation right now where our friends no longer trust us and our enemies no longer fear us,” Shannon said. “We have a president who continues to disarm America.”

Leaders are born, Shannon said. They are called to vote right and to sell the conservative message, he said.

Lankford said he went into Congress without coming from a political background, but as a private citizen in 22 years of full-time ministry. He has tried to restore American values to the strength it once personified, he said.

“It used to be that families were the most important thing. The families took care of the key issues,” Lankford said. “It used to be that issues were determined locally, and it happened at a local level. It used to be that the states had greater authority and not the federal government.”

People saw the federal government as their servant without today’s theme of serving the federal government, Lankford continued. He has a responsibility to share the gospel every place he can take it, said Lankford, who serves as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee.

He also serves on the Budget Committee and is chairman of the Committee on Oversight & Government Reform.

“Those two committees in the House of Representatives are ground zero for the major issues that we deal with,” Lankford said. “I want to be in the thick of the fight.”

Lankford said he pushed for a budget that nobody thought possible with President Barack Obama backed by U.S Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

“We pushed that budget through and for the first time in several years stopped the increase of spending and turned it around,” Lankford said. “We did it again the next year. This is the first time since the Korean War that the budget has not increased two years in a row.”

Still, the budget has not decreased enough, Lankford said. But he also has not been working with a Republican Senate or a Republican president, he said.

Lankford’s first set of hearings on the Oversight & Government Reform Committee dealt with Fast and Furious where it was discovered that American guns were being sold to criminals operating in Mexico. The occasion marked the beginning of holding Attorney Gen. Eric Holder to account, after the killing of a border agent, he said.

The federal government had released weapons into the grip of thugs and criminal gangs, Lankford said. Holder tried to keep 80,000 pages related to Fast and Furious away from the committee, citing executive privilege, said Lankford, 46.

“We’ve held him in contempt and now we’re going through the court proceedings,” Lankford said.

The greatest threat to personal liberty and security is coming from Washington, D.C., Brogdon said. Bad decisions made by Washington politicians have created problems throughout America, Brogdon said.

“I’m not going to Washington, D.C., to try to manage the mess. I want to dismantle it,” Brogdon said. His campaign will emphasize stopping the federal debt and federal over-reach.

“I believe everyone in this room understands that we are spending ourselves into oblivion,” Brogdon said. “Our kids are in trouble financially, again because of Washington, D.C.”

Brogdon, 60, said he is the most conservative of the three candidates. Conservative principals are based on the rule of law, limited government and individual liberty, Brogdon said.

“So I ask you today, if you haven’t made your mind up in this race, pay close attention to the answers,” Brogdon said.

Nobody should have to wake up every morning in fear of what the IRS will do to them, he said.

“Wondering what the EPA is going to do, wondering about how many jobs and businesses the EPA runs out of the state of Oklahoma,” Brogdon said.

His mission is to protect the God given rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, Brogdon said.

Other Republican U.S. Senate candidates for the unexpired term include Jason Weger, 31, of Norman; Kevin Crow, 46, of Chickasha; Eric McCray, 33, of Tulsa; and Andy Craig, 41, of Broken Arrow.

One Independent candidate, Mark Beard, 54, of Oklahoma City is also running for the Senate seat.

The three Democrats contenders for U.S. Senate include state Sen. Connie Johnson, 61, of Oklahoma City; Patrick Hayes, 39, of Anadarko; and Jim Rogers, 79, of Midwest City.

Voters will nominate their party’s candidates on June 24 for the statewide primary election. Voters will nominate their party’s candidates on June 24 for the statewide primary election. A run-off primary election is set for Aug. 26. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 4.

jcoburn@edmondsun.com | 341-2121

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