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Rep. Carson to seek open Oklahoma Senate seat
The Hill ^ | October 8, 2003 | Sarita Chourey

Posted on 10/09/2003 11:06:28 AM PDT by AntiGuv

Rep. Brad Carson (D-Okla.) will enter the race to succeed senior Republican Sen. Don Nickles, who announced Tuesday that he won’t seek a fifth term.

Carson plans to announce his exploratory committee next week, according to a Democratic source.

Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) is also expected to run for Nickles’ seat, while Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys (R) and Attorney General Drew Edmondson (D) are possible contenders.

Nickles, 54, chairman of the Budget Committee and the former GOP whip, decided not to seek reelection even though his GOP colleagues and the White House wanted him to stay, and he was considered an odds-on favorite.

Nickles was elected to the Senate at age 31 after serving two years in the Oklahoma state Senate. He made his announcement at a news conference Tuesday at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.

“It’s been a pleasure to serve with four presidents, seven majority leaders,” said Nickles, who will serve the remaining 15 months of his term.

He added, “I’ve never considered the Senate as a lifetime position.”

Nickles, a native of Ponca City whose family owns a machine-tool company, said he always intended to return to the private sector.

“Frankly, I’m surprised I’m in the Senate for 24 years. I thought we might do a couple of terms. I was kind of surprised we did three terms, real surprised we did four terms, and then I was sorely tempted to do five.

“I told [my wife] Linda I didn’t want to be a lifer. I always expected to return to the private sector.”

Nickles said he will remain involved in Oklahoma issues and state politics and will be “very active” in the 2004 presidential campaign. He said he will campaign against Democratic candidate Howard Dean, the former Vermont governor, because of his opposition to President Bush’s tax cut proposals.

Istook spokeswoman Micah Swafford said Tuesday that Istook is “definitely very interested” in running for Nickles’ seat. She added that the sixth term congressman “will be talking to Oklahomans in the coming weeks about entering the race.”

Brad Luna, Carson’s communications director, sidestepped questions, saying: “This is obviously Senator Nickles’ day. After 24 years of service, Senator Nickles gets one day that’s focused on him and his accomplishments.”

Luna said Carson “believes there will be a time and place for politics, and he will gather with his family and give lengthy, prayerful consideration about the way that he can continue to serve our great state and its people.”

Carson, a two-term, centrist Democrat, is the only Native American tribal member in the House.

Former Rep. J.C. Watts (R) who also was mentioned as a possible candidate, said Thursday in a statement that he will not seek the seat. But he credited Nickles with sparking his own interest in public service and the GOP.

Watts, who retired in 2002, is chairman of Fannie Mae Policy Focus and the political action committee GOPAC and founder of J.C. Watts Co., a consulting firm.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) said that a primary race between Democrats Carson and Edmonson would be “a very good race” and that “it’s probably what Republicans would love to happen.”

He called both “excellent candidates,” but said that Carson “has done the most in laying the groundwork.”

Nickles was the first GOP senator to call for then-Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) to step down after his racially charged comments at Sen. Strom Thurmond’s (R-S.C.) 100th birthday party.

Nickles joins Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) as the second Republican senator to announce his retirement this year.

Democratic Sens. Fritz Hollings (S.C.), John Edwards (N.C.) and Zell Miller (Ga.) have also announced they will vacate their Senate seats next year. Democratic Sens. Bob Graham (Fla.), who ended his presidential campaign yesterday, and John Breaux (La.) have not yet announced if they will run for reelection in 2004.

Senate Republicans hold a 51-48 majority, with Independent Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont usually lining up with the Democratic minority.

The last open seat in Oklahoma was in 1994, when Sen. Jim Inhofe (R) beat Rep. Dave McCurdy (D).

U.S. Sen. Don Nickles, R-Oklahoma, announced Tuesday he will not seek re-election to the Senate next year for a fifth term, but promised to remain “very active” in state and national politics.

Nickles, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, made the announcement at the Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City.

Nickles, who started his job when Ronald Reagan began his presidency, said great strides were accomplished during that time, and since.

Nickles recalled the “wonderful feeling” at witnessing the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.

Former U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts has been mentioned as a possible candidate for Nickles’ seat, but sources close to Watts say he is unlikely to run.

TOPICS: Extended News; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; US: Oklahoma
KEYWORDS: 2004; donnickles; ernestistook; istook; oklahoma; senate

1 posted on 10/09/2003 11:06:28 AM PDT by AntiGuv
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To: AntiGuv
I live in Brad Carson's district and he is no conservative. Brad Carson must be defeated. Too bad JC decided not to run, but Ernest Istook would be a good candidate. I am very concerned about a Democrat taking this seat. Republicans must NOT take this seat for granted like we did the governorship.
2 posted on 10/09/2003 11:12:01 AM PDT by yellowdoghunter
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To: All

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Please visit the FR Fundraiser

3 posted on 10/09/2003 11:12:37 AM PDT by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: PhiKapMom
4 posted on 10/09/2003 11:13:08 AM PDT by deport (The Many, The Proud, The Winners)
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To: AntiGuv
Cross-linking to the same article in Campaign Central:

5 posted on 10/09/2003 11:24:14 AM PDT by JohnnyZ (RED SOX WIN! We had 'em all the way)
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To: AntiGuv
They are right about an Edmondson vs. Carson race. That could get nasty. They have the same eastern OK constituency and that primary will split families. I also wish J. C. would run. The pubs could lose this one if they're not careful and don't work hard.
6 posted on 10/09/2003 11:28:41 AM PDT by arkfreepdom
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To: JohnnyZ
Oh, thanks! I forgot all about the campaign forum after the 2002 midterms..
7 posted on 10/09/2003 11:35:57 AM PDT by AntiGuv (When the countdown hits zero, something's gonna happen..)
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