- Associated Press - Sunday, June 19, 2016

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Oklahoma’s longest-serving members of the U.S. House face primary election opposition from challengers who say the incumbents’ time in Washington has put them out of touch with constituents back home and their votes do not represent voters’ values.

Third District Rep. Frank Lucas, the senior member of Oklahoma’s delegation, faces fellow Republican Desiree Brown of Hennessey in the June 28 primary, in which Lucas is seeking a 12th term in the sprawling western Oklahoma district. The winner will meet Democrat Frankie Robbins of Medford in the Nov. 8 general election.

In southwestern Oklahoma’s 4th District, Rep. Tom Cole is vying for an eighth term against a pair of Republican challengers, Norman pastor James Taylor and Army veteran Shawn Roberts of Lawton. A runoff, if needed, will be conducted on Aug. 23. The GOP winner will meet Libertarian Sevier White of Norman and the winner of the district’s Democratic primary between Bert Smith of Moore and Christina Owen of Norman in the general election.

Lucas, of Cheyenne, said his seniority in Congress has permitted him to take leadership roles on issues important to Oklahomans, particularly agriculture and energy. Lucas is a former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and also serves on the House Committee on Financial Services and as vice chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.

“I’m actually proud of our accomplishments,” Lucas said.



In 2014, Lucas introduced legislation that would amend some provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which has been attacked by conservatives for unduly restricting financial institutions. Lucas said he supported lifting the ban on U.S. oil exports to allow producers to sell surplus supplies and help bolster Oklahoma’s struggling energy industry.

“There’s people hurting,” Lucas said.

Cole said he also supported lifting the ban and favors reigning in federal regulations that he said stifle energy producers.

“Generally, you want to re-ignite the economy,” he said.

A member of the House Appropriations, Rules and Budget committees, Cole said he has never voted for a tax increase and has consistently voted to reduce spending.

“I think it’s a very consistently conservative record, but I’m practical enough to get things done,” Cole said.

The incumbents’ primary challengers claim the incumbents’ lengthy service and votes on spending and debt have fueled discontent among conservative voters - a message that has resonated with some voters.

“There needs to be a change,” said trucker Ed Taylor of Lawton. “People shouldn’t be in there that long. They lose touch with their constituents.”

Voter Suzanne Johnson, who helps run her family’s farm in Alfalfa County in northwestern Oklahoma, said Lucas’ voting record rivals that of some Democrats in Congress.

“And he has continued to support outrageous unconstitutional spending,” Johnson said. “He has a complete disconnect to what’s going on.”

The Rev. James Taylor, pastor of Christ Church in Norman and a history teacher at Roosevelt Middle School in Oklahoma City, said he is running against Cole because he is concerned about his voting record.

“Someone has to run against him,” Taylor said. He said the national debt has tripled since Cole was first elected in 2002, belying his claims of conservatism.

Roberts, who retired from the Army in 2012 as a sergeant, said he disagrees with Cole’s support of spending legislation, measures he said has contributed to the nation’s debt.

“He has not met a spending increase that he doesn’t like,” Roberts said. He said Cole frequently supports spending programs favored by Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration.

“He’s not standing up and fighting when a vast number of his constituency is wholeheartedly against all that,” he said.

In the Democratic primary, Smith, a Vietnam veteran and retired Army lieutenant colonel who has run for the seat five times before, said he supports the federal health care law that Cole has voted to repeal 68 times.

“I totally disagree. He would love to take it down,” Smith said.

He said the Republican majority in Congress, which Cole is part of, “is taking apart veteran hospitals slowly but surely.”

“I support the veterans’ hospitals,” Smith said.

Christina Owen, Smith’s opponent in the Democratic primary, said she supports the legalization of marijuana for medicinal and recreational use and opposes wage inequality for women in the workplace. Active with Yes All Daughters, a support group for the victims of sexual violence, Owen said she will focus on human rights and civil rights, including issues involving American Indians.

“This is what I was called to do,” Owen said. “The whole point is to have an option, to have a voice.”

Desiree Brown, Lucas’ primary opponent, said she favors term limits for members of Congress.

“I also believe that the people who go up there are not supposed to be lifetime members,” said Brown, a cable splicing technician for AT&T; in Enid.

She said she favors limited government and less bureaucracy and opposes Lucas’ support of some spending proposals.

“We need to have someone who will stand up against that,” Brown said.

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