Patrick B. McGuigan
Opinion polls hint that Steve Russell is running somewhere in the middle of the pack of six conservatives who are seeking to take the Republican mantle in the Fifth Congressional District of Oklahoma. But Russell’s confidence and ability could sway voters his way.
The contest still seemed wide open as early voting began on Thursday and the June 24 primary neared.
Russell told CapitolBeatOK his priorities included “restoration of constitutional government to the American people. The government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed. We are blessed in America to have a Constitution to work with that allows us to curb the powers of government when we deem that appropriate. We can constitutionally control the reach of the government and put in leaders who understand the limits of government under the Constitution.”
Having been asked to name his three top issues, Russell continued, “Second, Oklahomans must protect life and liberty as defined in the Constitution. It’s our job to protect life, liberty property. It is not the job of the government to tell us how to act in exercising our economic and other freedoms. Government has been losing sight of the very ideals put in place to limit its actions, and to protect the inalienable rights of the people.
“Third, balancing the federal budget. If we don’t get a budget that will curb deficit spending we may lose our country.”
A decorated military veteran, Russell elaborated: “I remember in the 1992-93 time frame we made cuts in the armed services. We went from 1.2 million soldiers to about 560,000 in the glow after the fall of the Soviet Union. If the U.S. military could do that then I know we can, as a country, live within our means.
“There are any ways to attack the budget problem. We should be leasing for more oil and gas exploration on federal lands, then assign the money from leases directly to retiring the federal deficit. If we increase energy production we can gain ‘hard money’ from exports.
“Looking back in history, I liken the possibilities to those at the time of the explosion of British steam power. In a fairly short time, we could transform the nation’s economy.
“We are sitting on and suppressing a great capacity in our country. Thanks to the Bill of Rights we have and can improve on laws to allow the genius of individuals and companies to benefit the entire country.”
Russell served one term in the state Senate and describes himself as “a fifth generation Oklahoman.”
Colonel Russell is the author of “We Got Him!” -- a memoir of his unit’s role in the capture of Saddam Hussein. After his term in the Legislature, Russell founded a small rifle manufacturing business and traveled widely promoting his book.
Asked this reporter’s customary question pressing candidates to make the case for election in their own voice, Russell responded:
“I am an experienced leader who has defended the Constitution since I took an oath to do so at the age of 18. I nearly gave my life, my all, my everything. I served in the military and commanded significant operations and led soldiers. I served in the Senate. I created a small business starting with just an idea.
“All of this gives me a unique set of skills. From my years in the military I learned to speak German. I had struggles and recognize that our national leadership needs an understanding of foreign policy which I believe is now lacking.”
In conclusion, he quipped: “In addition to all that, I raised five kids on a soldier’s pay.”
Russell is part of packed field of six multi-issue conservatives, but he’s defied the odds before. Polls or not, few reporters watching the Republican race will count him out.