By Tim Talley
OKLAHOMA CITY —
Republican U.S. Rep. James Lankford is seeking a second term in Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District seat in the Nov. 6 general election, but Democratic and independent challengers say they hope to spoil Lankford’s plans.
Lankford, the only member of Oklahoma’s U.S. House delegation who did not draw a primary challenger, faces Democrat Tom Guild and independents Pat Martin and Robert Murphy in the general election. The 5th District includes nearly all of Oklahoma County, along with Pottawatomie and Seminole counties.
Lankford was a political newcomer when he emerged from a crowded Republican primary field in 2010 and won the GOP nomination in a runoff. And he says his performance in Congress over the past two years merits a second term.
Lankford, 44, is part of a Republican majority in the House that he said has managed to hold down discretionary federal spending and help ease the national debt, which now totals slightly more than $16 trillion.
“We’ve been able to hold that down two years in a row,” Lankford said.
Lankford, a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, said he also helped pass transportation legislation that will provide stability to transportation infrastructure issues across the state and nation.
But Lankford said his first term has also been characterized by sharp partisan differences in Congress that have made it difficult to accomplish legislative goals.
“Things are slow and tedious,” Lankford said. “Most people are frustrated with Congress because they don’t want to think about Congress.”
Those frustrations are a reflection of the strong role the federal government plays in the lives of average Americans, he said.
“I think the issue is people want less,” Lankford said.
Guild, a 58-year-old retired college professor who unsuccessfully sought the 5th District Democratic nomination District in 2010, said he opposes many of the policies supported by the incumbent and believes Lankford has failed to accomplish his primary goals.
“His big pitch to voters is he’s going to reduce the budget deficit. I’ve seen no evidence of that,” Guild said.
Guild said his primary goals are to protect government health care programs that are under attack by the GOP majority in the House.
“I want to protect Social Security and Medicare,” Guild said. He said proposals to tamper with the government programs could push some people, especially the elderly, into poverty because they will be unable to afford the cost of health care.
Guild said he opposes most of the policies favored by Republican House leaders and supports ending the George W. Bush-era tax cuts for those who earn more than $250,000 a year while extending the tax breaks for those who make less.
The fractured nature of Congress was cited by the independent candidates as primary reasons they entered the race.
“It’s turned into a war between two factions,” said Martin, 28, a field services manager for an oil and natural gas industry software company. “A whole lot of people I talk to believe politicians have forgotten they work for us.”
Martin said an independent voice in Congress could act as a mediator between the two parties and help the legislative process work more smoothly.
“There’s no willingness to find that common ground,” Martin said.
He said he supports ending the nation’s involvement in foreign conflicts and bringing the troops home to better secure its borders.
Murphy, a 64-year-old retired computer system technician, did not return an email or telephone call from The Associated Press, but comments he contributed to VOTE411.org, an online voter guide launched by the League of Women voters in 2006, indicate he is a Libertarian who wants to limit the federal government’s influence.
“I’m a candidate because of a constant, nagging anger at the sight of so much political, economic, and social injustice in our country and the world,” Murphy wrote. “The federal government should be limited to providing a legal framework that will ensure that interactions between people are peaceful and voluntary, that contracts are kept and to keep the states from passing oppressive laws.
“The raw, brutal, police power of the state is not a legitimate tool for social and economic progress,” he said.