In my many years of seeking Oklahomans’ vote to serve them in public office, this was the first time I ran a completely positive campaign. I learned a lesson that I hope my Republican colleagues pay close attention to in future elections.
Last Sunday, John LeBoutillier, TV pundit and former congressman from New York, said on Fox News’ Political Insiders, “If you have the right message, you can sell it with less money than if you just blow a lot of money on negative stuff. You’ve got to have the courage to say, ‘I’m going 100 percent positive. I’m going to tell you what I stand for and what I have done to earn your vote.’ ”
On April 10, the last day to file for re-election in Oklahoma, I decided that this year my campaign would do just what LeBoutillier said — be 100 percent positive and focus only on what I have done, and can continue to do, to fight for Oklahoma’s interests.
I had eight opponents, and it would have been easy to use their names on the campaign trail, or even debate them. Debating runs thick in my blood, and I’ve spent many hours on the Senate floor debating my liberal friends, including Sen. Barbara Boxer, former Sen. Joe Biden, and Sen. Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist. After a lengthy debate with Sen. Sanders on man-made climate change, he even admitted that I won the debate and that it was the healthiest debate in his career to date.
Instead of accepting the open invitation to make this a negative campaign, I chose to travel across Oklahoma and share with people what it is I stand for — rebuilding our nation’s military; pursuing American energy independence; strengthening our nation’s infrastructure; and reigning in federal regulations impacting our farmers and small businesses.
In one of my first TV ads this election cycle, I focused on what makes America great — our men and women in uniform fighting to protect our nation and the freedoms we’ve come to cherish. As the senior member on the Senate Armed Services Committee, I’ve fought, and will continue to fight, to protect our military installations in Oklahoma and visit our troops serving overseas. In a Republican majority, I’ll be demanding a budget that reflects the needs of our Armed Forces so that they can execute missions with the best, most sophisticated, resources and return home safely to their families.
I also released a campaign ad about adoption, highlighting my granddaughter, Zagita Marie, who my daughter Molly brought home from an Ethiopian orphanage nearly 12 years ago. As the co-chairman of the Senate Adoption Caucus, I’ve put forward legislation to help raise awareness and streamline the process for children to be placed in forever loving homes.
Come January, I’ll be serving again as chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. On the campaign trail, I shared one of my top priorities to work with Republicans and Democrats to pass a long-term transportation bill so that we can begin to rebuild and repair our crumbling roads and bridges. This will help to support an economy that is ready to make a comeback when a Republican-led Congress begins to address excess government spending and overregulation that has strangled our economy for far too long.
At the end of this campaign, I was deeply honored to garner for the first time the support of all 77 counties and to receive 68 percent of the overall vote. I also beat my opponents with a 40 percent margin, the largest margin in any of my campaigns. I firmly believe this was the fruit of a positive, forward-thinking message. Republicans have a great story to tell about Republicanism and conservatism. I urge my friends running for office to join me in focusing solely on how we can work together to save our great nation and preserve its rich heritage.