The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

National and world

April 16, 2014

Oklahoma’s U.S. Senate candidates speak on panel

OKLAHOMA CITY — Former state Sen. Randy Brogdon criticized two of his top Republican opponents on Wednesday in the race for Oklahoma’s open U.S. Senate seat, and he vowed if elected in November not to support current U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

During a town hall-style forum before more than 200 people hosted by a grass-roots conservative group in Oklahoma City, Brogdon attempted to separate himself from two-term U.S. Rep. James Lankford and former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon. Neither Lankford nor Shannon would commit Wednesday to supporting any particular candidate as U.S. Senate leader, while Brogdon said there was “no way” he would vote for McConnell.

The three politicians are among seven Republicans seeking to complete the final two years remaining on the term of U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, who announced in January he was stepping down amid a recurrence of cancer.

While each candidate tried to distinguish himself, they agreed on numerous topics, including ending U.S. involvement with the United Nations, the importance of reducing the national debt and that the right to keep and bear firearms is a God-given one.

Brogdon, a tea party favorite in 2010 when he ran unsuccessfully for the GOP nomination against Gov. Mary Fallin, criticized Lankford for his votes to increase the federal debt limit and Shannon for helping negotiate a state budget last year that increased overall appropriations.

“That’s not shrinking the size of government,” Brogdon said.

But Brogdon, who previously owned a heating and air conditioning company in Owasso, has faced criticism himself for taking a $99,000-a-year state job with the newly elected Republican insurance commissioner after Brogdon’s failed gubernatorial bid in 2010. The job, which Brogdon held for three years, boosted his monthly state pension benefit by more than 50 percent.

Lankford, who is stepping down from his 5th Congressional District seat to run for the U.S. Senate, touted some of his accomplishments during his first four years in office, including his appointment to two key committees: budget and oversight and government reform.

“Those two committees in the House of Representatives are ground zero for the major issues that we deal with,” said Lankford, who cited the oversight panel’s investigation into the Fast and Furious gun smuggling operation and into the Internal Revenue Service’s alleged targeting of tea party groups.

Shannon, a four-term state representative from Lawton, highlighted some of his accomplishments during his one-year tenure as Speaker of the House, including the state’s refusal to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the establishment of a committee on states’ rights and the House’s resistance to any bond issues that would increase state debt.

“That’s the kind of leader I believe you’re looking for in your next United States senator,” Shannon said. “Somebody who will say no to more debt, no to more spending ... and represent Oklahoma values, even under pressure.”

Other Republicans seeking the GOP nomination are Jason Weger of Norman, Kevin Crow of Chickasha, and Eric McCray and Andy Craig, both of Broken Arrow. Democrats in the race are state Sen. Connie Johnson of Oklahoma City, Patrick Michael Hayes of Anadarko, and Jim Rogers of Midwest City. Independent Mark Beard of Oklahoma City also is running.

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