Republicans vying for 1st District seat square off civilly at event
BY RANDY KREHBIEL World Staff Writer
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
6/13/12 at 7:27 AM
Related story: 2nd District GOP candidates agree.
Read all the election coverage.
Republican insiders were keen on keeping Tuesday's face-off between U.S. Rep. John Sullivan and his 1st District Republican primary challenger Jim Bridenstine civil. They did not want a repeat of the testy exchanges that characterized the two candidates' joint radio appearance last week.
So with more than 250 people filling a Hilton Southern Hills banquet room for the pair's only public confrontation before the June 26 election, Bridenstine and Sullivan were kept at arm's length from each other, figuratively and literally.
The forum, sponsored by the Republican Women's Club of Tulsa County, was structured to prevent back and forth between the candidates. After a five-minute opening by each, they responded to questions submitted by the audience.
Thus, the subject of Bridenstine's and Sullivan's respective voting records and some of the other more personal matters raised during the campaign did not come up.
On only one issue, energy policy, did Sullivan and Bridenstine substantially disagree. Sullivan touted his bill to promote natural gas vehicle fuels, while Bridenstine supports an alternative proposal.
"Let's get cars, trucks and buses running on natural gas," Sullivan said. "We have an abundance of it here in the United States. It's cheap and abundant and ... it also addresses a national security issue by lessening our dependence on foreign oil."
Bridenstine calls Sullivan's NatGas Act a "big-government" boondoggle because it creates a short-term subsidy to convert vehicles to natural gas.
"We ought not let Washington, D.C., control free markets with tax subsidies," he said.
Bridenstine said he supports the Domestic Jobs, Domestic Energy, and Deficit Reduction Act, which is backed by Oklahoma's U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn. That measure is intended to more directly stimulate oil and gas exploration in the United States.
Neither bill, as it turns out, is expected to win approval in Congress.
On the other issues covered by the audience's questions - debt, the economy, the Middle East, states' rights, border security, even space exploration - Sullivan and Bridenstine largely agreed.
There were, though, some subtle differences.
Bridenstine, who's challenged Sullivan on leadership grounds more than philosophical differences, couched many of his answers as attacks on Congress: Congress - and by extension Sullivan - are to blame for deficit spending, which Bridenstine described as the nation's No. 1 issue and the leading national security issue.
Sullivan, on the other hand, blamed President Barack Obama whenever possible. Obama is trying to keep illegal immigrants in the country to help win the November election, Sullivan suggested, and Obama is ruining the country through over-regulation and health-care reform.
Bridenstine was able to get in a bit of a jab when the two were asked why Congress was "exempt" from the laws the rest of the country live under.
Sullivan said he didn't know what laws Congress is exempt from and explained many of the beliefs about congressional perks are erroneous.
Bridenstine said Sullivan is "exempt because he's in Congress" and promised to limit his time in office. Previously, Bridenstine has said he would serve no more than three terms.
The winner of the June 26 primary will meet Democrat John Olson and independent Craig Allen in the Nov. 6 general election.
Original Print Headline: 1st District Republicans square off
Randy Krehbiel 918-581-8365
(Left)Current First District Congressman John Sullivan addresses the crowd at a debate held at the Hilton Southern Hills located at 7900 S Lewis. Right, Challenger to the first district congress seat, Jim Bridenstine, addresses a large crowd at a debate held at the Hilton Southern Hills located at 7900 S Lewis. KT KING/Tulsa World
U.S. Rep. John Sullivan, R-Okla., (right) speaks during an event with GOP primary challenger Jim Bridenstine at the Hilton Southern Hills on Tuesday. Sullivan touted his bill to promote natural gas vehicle fuels, a move Bridenstine called a "big-government" boondoggle. KT KING/Tulsa World
First District congressional candidate Jim Bridenstine recalls his experience in the Navy. The event Tuesday was structured to avoid back-and-forth between him and opponent U.S. Rep. John Sullivan. KT KING/Tulsa World