Thursday, October 27th 2022, 8:26 pm
In just under two weeks, Oklahomans will decide who will fill the much-coveted Senate seat being vacated by Senator Jim Inhofe after almost 30 years. There are four candidates on the ballot, but for most voters, it will come down to a choice between Republican Markwayne Mullin and Democrat Kendra Horn.
Viewed simply, it's a race between a conservative Republican -- Markwayne Mullin -- and a moderate Democrat --. Kendra Horn. Horn hoped voters would get a more nuanced understanding of the race through a live, televised debate, and Griffin Media offered to host one, but Mullin has declined to debate her.
"I don't have any interest in sitting there on the stage with someone that just constantly attacks you," Mullin said in a recent interview, stating that his Democratic opponent's campaign ads all seem to attack him relentlessly. "Every single one of her ads. Every single one of her Facebook posts is attacking us because she's trying to get attention. Why would I give her that attention?"
Horn says this is not about getting attention, it's about respecting voters enough to be willing to answer questions and defend a voting record. Horn says Mullin has nothing to show for five terms in Congress.
"Anyone that won't show up and answer questions doesn't deserve to have our votes," Horn said in an interview, "and I'm sorry, but a real man would show up and answer questions -- Oklahomans deserve better than that."
Oklahomans, Mullin says, have mostly made their minds up by now. "At this point we're running our race," he said. "Let her run her race and we'll see what happens November 8."
45-year-old Markwayne Mullin lives on a large ranch in rural Westville, Oklahoma, a short distance from the Arkansas line in Adair County. A successful businessman who's been representing Oklahoma's 2nd congressional district since 2013, Mullin says he decided to run for the Senate because he believes he could have a greater impact in the Senate and especially be more effective in protecting small business from overreaching federal agencies there.
"All the heads of every one of those agencies, they get confirmed through the Senate," Mullin explained. "I want to be there. I want to look those people in the eye and want to ask them, 'What's your purpose when you get over to that agency, what's your purpose? Is it to pick winners and losers? Or is that up to the consumers to do that?'"
Chickasha-born Kendra Horn, 46, is seeking a return to Congress, having represented the 5th district for one term before losing her re-election bid to Stephanie Bice in 2020. Horn says, in a storm of unproductive finger-pointing and extremism -- on both sides -- she offers a voice of reason and belief in bipartisanship.
"That's the way things should be -- that's the way I work." Horn stated. "I did not, nor will I ever, take an oath of allegiance to a party or a person. I know that I am very clear on that. I will work with anyone when it's good for Oklahoma. I will stand up to anyone when it's not."
But where do the two stand on the issues?
Polls suggest that the top issue for most Americans heading into the midterm elections is inflation. President Biden has said that reversing inflation and bringing prices down is the number one priority of his administration, still, it remains stubbornly high -- 8.2 percent in September -- and Republicans say it's because of the Democrats' out-of-control spending and the president's poor policies.
"Let's just look at his energy policy," said Mullin, "you can't have an affordable economy if you don't have affordable energy. Energy is the backbone of every economy."
Horn agrees that Americans are hurting and says, not only do we need affordable energy, "we need economic policies that incentivize innovation and entrepreneurship and job growth and opportunity, but also ensure that we are not allowing more and more people to fall through the cracks."
On energy policy itself, Horn is sharply critical of the Biden administration and the notion we can just a flip a switch to all renewables.
"This is one of the places I very much disagree with this administration, and I think we need more people like me that are going to push back and say we need in all-of-the-above approach," said Horn. "As a state and as a nation and as a world, we need more energy, not less. As Oklahomans, we are energy producers. We are well positioned to positively contribute to our nation's energy needs."
Mullin doubts that Horn's record would actually match her words.
"My opponent is going to be supporting the Democrat policies." Mullin said. “If she didn't want to be a Democrat, then run as an Independent."
He says American energy has to be fully unleashed.
"You have to get energy independence back on the forefront and there's no reason why we aren't," he said. "When we're energy independent, we control our energy costs."
Another major issue this past year and one that the next Congress will also confront is whether to continue supplying financial support and military aid to Ukraine.
Rep. Mullin has generally supported legislation arming the Ukrainians and says Russian President Vladimir Putin is dangerous and must be stopped. But he says Europe needs to take the lead, that America can't afford to be the main funder of the fight.
"We need to make sure we're shoring our own house up before we're dumping money into another country right now," Mullin said. "We've done a lot already."
Horn says we absolutely must continue to support Ukraine and our European allies.
"And this is an example of why we need both a strong military and a strong diplomatic corps," said maintained, "and all military leaders will tell you that as well. We have to have both."
One of the GOP's most vehement and constant criticisms of the Biden administration has been a breakdown of security on the southern border. Horn says the need is real, but the solution doesn't lie in the extremes.
"We have to make sure that we're treating people with dignity and respect," Horn said, "but also protecting ourselves at the same time. These two things can also coexist."
While Mullin blames the Biden administration for policies that encourage illegal immigration, he admits that Congress has a role to play and needs to pass immigration reform. But he says Democrats, as much as they complained about immigration policy in the Trump years, aren't actually interested.
"They've been in charge two years and they've done nothing, zero, zilch, because it wasn't real to them," said Mullin. "It's just something that they want to use as a talking point."
On the Bipartisan Infrastructure law, which Congress passed with $550 billion in new funding for roads and bridges, rural broadband, rail and ports, Mullin justified his opposition by stating that too much of it was not actual infrastructure.
"I'm not going to vote for a ton of wasteful spending," said Mullin. "Wasteful spending is what got us into this mess to begin with."
Horn says she would have voted for it and that Mullin put politics over people.
"My opponent voted against critical investments in resources for our communities that are desperately in need," said Horn. "That infrastructure bill is $5 billion worth of investment for Oklahomans these are critical things that are going to help us build and grow."
On reproductive rights, Horn says, it's a difficult issue, but it's not hard to see that women's rights have been wrongfully stripped away in Oklahoma and other red states where abortion bans have been approved by Republican legislatures.
"My opponent not only supports that," said an impassioned Horn, "he has said he wants a nationwide ban on abortion, with zero exceptions for rape or incest or the life of the woman."
Mullin says the Supreme Court was right to overturn Roe v. Wade and he is fighting to protect all babies. He says he'd rather states put their own abortion bans in place, but admits he would likely support a federal ban.
"It depends on how it was written," said Mullin, "but if that's what it took to try to protect the babies, I would."
Both Mullin and Horn have aspirations to serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, as the retiring Senator Inhofe does now. Inhofe openly criticized Mullin this past summer (for the unauthorized rescue attempt he helped mount in Afghanistan in 2021, saying it put American soldiers at risk), but then endorsed him in a tweet a month later.
Election handicappers rate the race as "solid" for the GOP, but Horn says she was also counted out in 2018. the year she upset incumbent Steve Russell.
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