About a week ago I made it to a 5th Congressional District candidate forum. All but one of the 6 Republican contenders were present, and each had the opportunity to answer submitted questions relevant to the race. This was my first exposure to some of them, so it was good for me to meet a few of them and hear from them all directly.

Oklahoma Candidates for 5th Distict Congress

Candidates for Oklahoma’s Fifth Congressional District 2014: Shane Jett, Harvey Sparks, Patrice Douglas, Steve Russell, Clark Jolley

With the primary coming up in ten days – that’s June 24, 2014 – it’s pretty important that you know who you’re voting for. So please, allow me to shed a little light from my perspective! I’m not telling anyone who to vote for or making any endorsements, but I’ll let you know what I think about each of the six contenders to replace Congressman James Lankford.First of all, conservative is such an overused, ambiguous term that I won’t attempt to use it to describe anyone. If a Republican candidate in Oklahoma ever decides to run on an “I’m not conservative” platform, I’ll be the first to let you know.

Who are the Fifth District candidates? They are Shane Jett, Patrice Douglas, Clark Jolley, Harvey Sparks, Mike Turner, and Steve Russell. I can’t guarantee I’ll give you the most accurate, in-depth look you could possibly imagine, but I will give you my honest, candid, and slightly irreverent views. You won’t find it anywhere else. Well, except on Twitter, perhaps.

Each candidate at the forum was asked the same questions, and one I took notes on was what the 3 most important things they would strive for, if elected, that would make the US more competitive. They were also asked about various issues, and as you might expect there was a lot of agreement. All said they oppose national debt limit increases. When asked if they support John Boehner for continuing as Speaker of the House, all said they would not. (Patrice Douglas said “not yet” instead of just “no.” Clark Jolley said “not by any stretch of the imagination.” Keep in mind also this was before Eric Cantor had been defeated in the primary election.) I think it’s also safe to say that all your CD5 candidates are pro-life and don’t support employer mandates for abortion care contrary to religious beliefs. This is an Oklahoma Republican primary, after all.

Now here are the 5th District candidates, in no particular order:

Patrice Douglas

Patrice Douglas serves as Chairman of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, and was also a two-term Mayor of the city of Edmond, Oklahoma.

Rapid fire:

  • 3 most important things to make the US more competitive: “level the playing field” and encourage exports, ease regulatory environment, and make sure there isn’t a minimum wage increase.
  • Wants to curb EPA policies, make things easier on oil and gas production.
  • Supports repeal of Obamacare.

Mike Turner

Turner was not at the forum, but I have sat down for coffee with him recently, and he has also been my State Rep. since I moved to my new house in 2013. All in all, he seems like a fairly conservative bloke (there I am using that word). It’s a little difficult to give you the same comparison to the other candidates since he wasn’t there to answer the same questions, but I’ll give you what I can.

Mike turner supports:

  • Cutting government spending.
  • School choice, local school control (no mention of Common Core, but he did vote to repeal it).
  • A free-market approach to healthcare.

Clark Jolley

I’m going to step on some toes with this one, but I don’t care. Clark Jolley is Oklahoma’s Eric Cantor, and if you can’t see that you need to start paying attention to what politicians actually do. He ran a disgusting campaign against Paul Blair to keep his State Senate seat, and he hasn’t shown he respects the voice of the people he represents. Jolley looks real nice, smiles and wears a suit, but that does not make him a lover of liberty, or even a conservative!

Oh my, I’ve used the c-word again. Let’s just jump ahead to the rap sheet:

  • 3 most important things to make the US more competitive – get the government out of the way, get rid of regulations, capital gains tax, and corporate income tax. Limit liability & exposure to administrative agencies like OSHA. Okay that was way more than 3 things, but this is how he answered the question at the forum.
  • Claims he has a track record.
  • “Energy independence means economic independence.”
  • Says James Lankford and Mary Fallin did a great job representing Oklahoma in DC.

Bonus: let’s check out that track record of his! All in all, he’s what I call a “standard Republican,” and I just happen to believe that’s the sort of Republican that led to the impotent party running Congress in DC at this very moment.

For starters, Jolley was an author of the bill that originally brought Common Core to Oklahoma in 2010. Now he opposes it and voted for its repeal. May I interject for a moment and remind you all how much this sounds like the defense of legislators who voted for TARP I and II? We’re supposed to cut them slack for making idiotic decisions because they somehow didn’t know any better at the time. I say the real story is politicians like this vote for whatever they want, or whatever their lobbyists want, and only back down if there’s enough outrage to pose a threat to their reelection efforts. And if you don’t believe me on that, I’d like to take you down to the Capitol for a visit in a few offices. You’ll notice very quickly who works for the people, and who works for special interests.

Steve Russell

My first exposure to Steve Russell was through his radio ad, in which I learned nothing other than that he served in the military for 25 years and helped capture Saddam Hussein. That’s great, I’m very glad for his service, but that doesn’t really shed a whole lot of light on why I should vote for him. What’s disturbing to me is that he put that ad out knowing that a lot of people *will* vote for him just for that reason.

That said, I did like him much more in person when I was able to hear him speak on the issues. At the same time, I really still can’t tell you anything specific that he stands for. Even on his website all I can find are generalities. For example, he says he wants to halt the expansion of the federal government, but what exactly that means is a mystery to me.

Flash facts:

  • 3 most important things to make the US more competitive – permits for oil and gas, audit the Pentagon and strengthen the military. I know, that’s only two. He also said something about the G7 (which I thought was the G8 but maybe I missed that part), but I didn’t catch exactly what.
  • Was in Oklahoma Senate 4 years.
  • Wants to ‘curb’ deficit spending.
  • Opposes certain excise taxes for manufacturing.
  • He did vote for the original Common Core bill as well in 2010. (CCR on SB2033)

Harvey Sparks

Harvey Sparks at 5th disrict congressional candidate forumHarvey Sparks was a pastor of churches in Oklahoma, and a missionary in Mozambique, Africa. He worked as a staffer for Jim Bridenstine after his election in 2012.

Lightning round:

  • 3 most important things to make the US more competitive – repeal Obamacare, reform tax code (with the Fair Tax), and deal with the debt.
  • All candidates do state they oppose Obamacare, but Sparks was the only one who actually mentioned repealing it at the forum.
  • Sparks was also the only candidate to wear a bow tie.
  • Also only candidate who has made a commitment to term limits.
  • Balanced budget amendment.
  • Supports personhood amendment.

“The word comprehensive is often used in talking about immigration reform. However, immigration is a complicated issue, so it is unrealistic to think that a single piece of legislation could fix it all. Immigration is an issue that can be better addressed in pieces that build one upon another.” – first step secure border with a physical barrier and use surveillance to track those who cross. Modernize visa process so that it is less burdensome to come here legally. I wholeheartedly agree. Opposes amnesty but doesn’t specify what to do instead with illegal immigrants already here.

Has come up with a plan to eliminate the deficit ($492 billion) 2015. It’s available here.

In a church, you don’t minister by decree. You have to present ideas, articulate them, and listen to build consensus. Has done it as a pastor in a church

Shane Jett

At the forum Jett slammed the Patriot Act domestic surveillance by the NSA, and said we gave up liberties by its passage. He was also in the military, but not for nearly as long as Steve Russell, whatever that’s worth to you. Like every Republican present, Shane Jett is against amnesty and for stronger border security. I found an interesting remark about his plans for immigration reform on his website. See if you can spot the interesting part: “A system of identification, classification and taxation must be implemented in order to get a handle on those who are already here. Regardless of the status of their paperwork, they must pay taxes, purchase medical and auto insurance like American citizens must.” I’ll give you a clue – it wasn’t the auto insurance part.

Instastats:

  • Supports states rights and individual liberty
  • 3 most important things: revamp tax structure to reward productivity, reduce size of government (I’ll bet he’s a conservative, too!), and spend money on infrastructure rather than social programs.
  • Didn’t put website on his campaign flyer. But I found it for you – jettforcongress.com.
  • He did not mention very many specifics, but I like that he brought up the Patriot Act. Few Republicans will challenge this unconstitutional Bush-era legislation.

My Closing Remarks

There is no distinctly libertarian candidate in this race.

Sometimes I find it difficult to pick candidates in most primaries, especially when there’s as many of them as we get in a Congressional race. Unless one stands out as a breath of fresh air, I generally feel like I’m having to pick the least bad candidate, and hope for the best come election day. Or, worse, I feel like the front-runner is horrible, and there might only be one other who could compete, so then I have the battle of “do I choose the one I agree with or the one I think has a chance?”

This race will probably go to a runoff. I don’t see any clear front-runner, and I don’t see a whole lot of difference between most of the candidates. The one that still stands out to me is Harvey Sparks. I’ve heard he doesn’t have much of a shot, but seriously, people he’s the only one who even mentioned Obamacare, and is also the only one who got specific about tax reform. Well, that’s not exactly true; Clark Jolley did say he wants to eliminate capital gains  and corporate income taxes. Those are definitely taxes I want to see reduced or eliminated.

I really like what I see in Harvey Sparks. Whether he has a chance or not is another question… Let me leave you with my current impressions, which I reserve the right to change before June 24, which is the date of the primary you should be absolutely sure you vote in! In order of preference, starting with my favorite candidate: Harvey Sparks, Steve Russell, Shane Jett, Patrice Douglas, Mike Turner. Did I leave anybody out?

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