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Seniority advantage key in Inhofe’s campaign strategy

BARTLESVILLE — One thing Sen. Jim Inhofe does not lack is energy, especially when he’s promoting one of his favorite ideas or taking on an issue he thinks no one else will tackle.

Two weeks after announcing intentions to run for a fourth full term in the U.S. Senate, Inhofe was back in Oklahoma last week, mixing campaign stops with his regular home vigil — which includes monthly (at least) visits to each of the state’s five U.S. military installations.

“I have always tried to keep a close watch on all matters related to defense of this country,” said Inhofe.

The senior senator from Oklahoma was in town Tuesday to meet with local economic development officials at ABB, a multi-faceted engineering firm which recently announced major expansion plans for its facility in the Bartlesville Industrial Park.

“More of my time is spent on issues related to oil and gas than anything else,” he said. “I am very interested in that industry, of course, also agriculture and other issues which are vital to Oklahomans’ well-being.”

Inhofe took time in his schedule to outline the primary reasons he said were behind his decision to seek re-election in 2014.

“There are three key areas where I feel I can make an impact,” Inhofe said. “And, if I were not to run, I don’t think any other Senate member would be there to get into these issues.”

The Oklahoma senator, who also served four earlier terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, identified those areas as: 1) the “disarming of America” by the administration of President Obama; 2) federal over-regulation of businesses and industries; and 3) the “war on fossil fuels” that he said is being waged by the current President.

“I see what is happening to this country, it’s being destroyed,” Inhofe said, directing most of the blame at Obama. “I never dreamed this could happen, but it is, and I want to help stop it.”

Already considered one of the most conservative members of Congress, Inhofe also would be one of the oldest (86) by the time another term as senator concludes. Nonetheless, he intends to persevere the six additional years to deliver on promises he has made to the American people.

As ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a former (and possibly the future) chairman of the Committee on Environment and Public Works, Inhofe believes he would be in a unique position to help right the wrongs he perceives regarding the three areas of his concern.

Inhofe considers national defense and infrastructure as the only things worthy of what he calls “big federal spending.”

“According to the Constitution, those are the only areas Congress is supposed to be involved in,” he said.

In addition to being elected for three full Senate terms, Inhofe served the final two years of his predecessor’s last term — when David Boren resigned to become president of the University of Oklahoma.

Inhofe was sworn in as senator on his 60th birthday, Nov. 16, 1994, approximately a week after winning the special election for Boren’s vacated seat. Due to favorable circumstances that allowed him to take office early, Inhofe gained seniority over other members of a sizable class of incoming senators.

“That gave me a two-month advantage on the others who were elected that year,” Inhofe said. “And, as you know, seniority is what it’s all about when it comes to those committee assignments.”

The maneuver, accomplished with the consent of Boren, ultimately proved beneficial to the entire state by elevating Inhofe for appointment to the two committees he considers to be the most important — Environment/Public Works and Armed Services.

Despite their being from opposing parties, Republican Inhofe has maintained a good working relationship with Democrat Boren since they opposed one another in the 1974 Oklahoma governor’s race — which Boren won by a 28-percent margin.

“Believe it or not, I was at a fundraiser last night in Norman and he (Boren) is who introduced me,” said Inhofe. “I consider him to be a strong supporter.”

Prior to joining the Senate, Inhofe was in the U.S. House for eight years representing Oklahoma’s First District. He also served three terms as mayor of Tulsa from 1978 to 1984.

Inhofe mentioned that he would like to see approval of a bill for complete authorization on federal transportation. He said the series of extensions that have been granted in recent years have resulted in loss of “30 percent of the funding, right off the top.”

Pointing to the need for passing important legislation like the Oklahoma Water Resources Act, Inhofe vowed to continue fighting for issues that have often cause him to lock horns with federal bureaucrats in the Environmental Protection Agency.

“I consider it poetic justice that I often find myself on the opposite side of them,” Inhofe said, recalling his days as a businessman (in oil, gas and insurance) in the 1960s and ’70s. “My chief opponent back then almost always was the federal government — especially the EPA.”

Inhofe said he may re-introduce a bill he previously proposed (the Flint Hills Preservation Act) which would protect the ability of landowners to use prescribed burns as a tool for preserving the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. First drafted two years ago, the bill would prevent EPA from placing unnecessary limits on the prescribed fires under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

Almost certain opposition by Inhofe to the future budgets of Obama will not be without precedent — and the reasons may go beyond mere partisan politics. In 1987, because of proposed tax increases without matching raises in defense spending, U.S. Rep. Inhofe also voted against the budget proposal by then-President Ronald Reagan.

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