The Pryor Times

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February 2, 2012

Congressional hopefuls take the podium

Six Republican congressional hopefuls met in Claremore Tuesday night for a debate at Rogers State University.

The debate was sponsored by the Claremore Progress newspaper and KRSU TV. The moderator was Oklahoma Lt. Gov. Todd Lamb. A Republican congressional debate in the 2nd Congressional District has historically been a mere civics lesson, given the lopsided voter registration. The predominantly Democrat district has elected two Republicans in the past century. In 2002, the district was combined with the 3rd Congressional District after Oklahoma lost a congressional seat. The 3rd District was the southeastern part of the state known as “Little Dixie,” for its dominant Democrat voter registration.  The late Carl Albert represented the former 3rd District for 30 years and was Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1971 until his retirement in 1977.

With a Democrat president who is largely unpopular in Oklahoma, and the retirement of Rep. Dan Boren who comes from an Oklahoma political dynasty, this congressional race is wide open.

The six candidates appeared at identical podiums and wore almost identical dark suits. Each candidate wore a red tie, or a predominantly red tie.

Dakota Wood is a graduate of the Naval Academy in Anapolis  , Md., and served for 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He lives in Claremore. Wood told he audience that despite the nation’s problems, he is optimistic because of Americans and their ideals.

Rep. George Faught is the only elected official in the group. Faught represents parts of Muskogee and Cherokee counties in the state house. He was elected in 2006. Faught owns a carpet-cleaning business. Faught told the audience that Congress has failed to cut spending. Faught said he fought the implementation of a national health care exchange at the state capitol that is part of the planned national health care passed by Congress in 2010.

Mark Wayne Mullin is an entrepreneur who owns several businesses. Mullin is a native of Westville in Adair County. He is a graduate of Stilwell High School. Mullin told the audience that given his background as a businessman, he never thought he would wake up one day and decide to be a congressman.

Wayne Pettigrew is a former state representative from Edmond. He was elected in 1994 and served until 2004. Pettigrew told the audience that he was ranked as one of the most conservative legislators in 20 years by the Oklahoma Constitution newspaper. He graduated from McAlester High School in 1980 and received a degree from East Central University in Ada. Pettigrew stressed his background in financial matters, telling the audience that only 10 percent of Congress has any background in economics.

Dustin Rowe was the youngest elected mayor of Tishomingo at 18. He served two terms. Rowe graduated from East Central University in and received a law degree from the University of Oklahoma. Rowe worked in the Stillwater office for then- Rep. Wes Watkins. Rowe is the Tishomingo town attorney. He said he is running because he is concerned by the level of federal government growth.

Dwayne Thompson is a native of Owasso. He graduated from Northeastern State University and received a master’s degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His background is in sales. He pastors a church. Thompson said he is most concerned about the country’s drift from its founding principles of civil government and Christianity.

Concerning Social Security, Rowe said he wants to take Social Security off budget so that it cannot be raided by Congress to fund other things. Rowe said that 43 percent of every dollar the government spends is borrowed money and the federal debt is now $15.2 trillion.

On the economy, Pettigrew said President Obama has spent $4 trillion on government jobs that do not create anything to benefit the economy, while killing the Keystone pipeline that would go from Canada through Oklahoma to Texas and produce thousands of jobs. Pettigrew said that there are only two to three years left before the nation goes into economic collapse, should spending not be stopped.

All the candidates support private sector over government involvement.

On social and cultural issues, Thompson said that more local control is needed and less from the federal government. Wood said social and cultural issues are critical, and one way to restore them is to restore the stigma that one-half of the public living off the other half who are working and paying taxes. Wood and Thompson said the nation needs to return to what it means to be American, pushing for assimilation over multi-culturalism.

On military spending as it relates to budget cuts, Wood said the military budget has to be looked at based on necessity and military readiness. He said when the world is more at peace cuts can be made, but when the world situation is unstable cutting the military budget is dangerous. He said he is concerned by the military cuts made by the Obama administration. Faught said his problem with budget votes is that it unconstitutionally takes the power away from Congress and places it in a small committee known as a “Super Committee” to make those cuts.

On illegal immigration, Faught said that amnesty is not the answer. He said that the porous border makes it too easy to come to America illegally and take away American jobs. He suggested one way to solve the problem is to go after businesses that hire illegal aliens. Mullin said he believes the thing to do is make it easier for people to come to the U.S. legally.

On public education, Mullin said the answer is local control. Pettigrew said that the Department of Education didn’t even exist until 1979, that he graduated from high school in 1980 and received a great education without that department. Pettigrew said that the education department has a budget of $80 billion and that it has doubled in budget during the Obama administration.

On regulations, Mullin said that 40 cents of every dollar he earns in his businesses is spent complying with regulations.

The greatest threat to the nation, Faught said, is the breakdown of families. Thompson said it is the rise of radical Islam.  On the issue of experience, Mullin said his business experience taught him priorities and he dosesn’t care who gets the credit, Republican or Democrat. Wood said that having some “fire in the britches” to change things isn’t enough, a candidate must understand complex issues.

Pettigrew said that the Community Reinvestment Act must not be reauthorized because it created the “liar loans” that created the housing bubble. He said that 80 percent of the loans have to go to people who are below the median income.

On Indian Nations as it pertains to water rights, Faught said he would work with the Indian tribes  on water issues, especially in southeastern Oklahoma, to produce jobs.

Rowe said he is an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation and Congress has an important responsibility to respect tribal sovereignty.  

On energy independence, Mullin said, “Drill baby, drill.” Mullin said the number of regulations needs to be elimiated that make it more expensive to drill in this country. “We need to get oil from Canada that likes us rather than the Middle East, which has been hostile.”

On the presidential candidates, Pettigrew said he likes Rick Perry and Herman Cain and has a little in common with the other candidates although he dislikes Mitt Romney’s state health care mandate.

Wood said he likes Rick Santorum as the most genuine candidate and that Newt Gingrich is too erratic.

Thompson said if elected, he would not enact any now legislation because there is enough. Mullin said he would go after regulations. Wood said he would work to defund some of the government initiatives. Pettigrew said he would work to create oversight of the Federal Reserve Board by auditing its books.

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