Jeff Cloud focused on “wide open” 5th Congressional District race

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Corporation Commissioner Jeff Cloud, who entered the Republican primary contest for the Fifth Congressional District post this month, said jockeying for the post “developed pretty early.” This year, after incumbent U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin announced she would vacate her seat in Washington to run for governor, a cascade of maneuvering touching multiple seats began.

Lt. Gov. Jari Askins and Attorney General Drew Edmondson, statewide elected officials like Cloud, also jumped in the race for the state’s top job, creating two more vacancies. The ultimate shifts resulting from all the campaign jockeying remains to be seen.

As for the congressional post, Cloud says that if elected, “I’m not going to be an arm-waver. I have the values, experiences and record to do a good job for the people here.” He added, “I know I’m not going to be one of President Obama’s czars, so that defines my mission as working for the conservative policies in which I believe.”

Cloud observed that the fact so many Republicans are running, and so far no Democrats, is a sign of partisan shifts in the Sooner State. However, he also reflected that, “The seat has been held by a conservative of one brand or another since 1950.” Although the district has had various shapes over the last 60 years, the only “wide open” races without an incumbent seeking reelection came in 1950, 1976 and in 2006. He believes the fifth district seat will remain in Republican hands, and that the GOP could gain 20 or more congressional seats in 2010.

Commissioner Cloud opposes the liberal national policy trend reflected in proposals now before the Congress controlled by Democrats. But he says, “the truth is the Republicans lost their way, too, over the last decade. In federal spending, the Republicans earlier in this decade were ‘Democrat-lite.’ As one of 435 elected representatives, I recognize that I would have to build relationships and work within coalitions to get things done.”

Cloud says the federal budgeting process in Congress has not yet reflected a willingness to set limits and priorities in the midst of a bad economy. For starters, he told CapitolBeatOK, “I’m not sure any line item in the budget should be off the table for cuts. The way it is now, too many in Congress simply want to get reelected, and they’re willing to use government to fix every problem.” Cloud said, if elected, he will seek to serve on committees like Ways and Means and the Energy panel.

“As recently as a year ago, it looked like there might be serious discussion around making our country ‘energy independent,’ as President Obama said. But Congress an d the president now seem determined to take away every incentive to explore and produce traditional sources of energy,” Cloud commented. “From my work here in the state it seems clear we’re going to need it all – traditional gas and oil, wind and other emerging sources of energy – to build the state.”

Asked what he hoped might be different in national policy two years from today, Cloud was reflective. “Well, I hope we’re not observing Congress still in session in late December ramming through the biggest growth of government in history. I hope we’re working to make America, in energy resources, less rather than more dependent on parts of the globe that are not friendly to us.”

Cloud continued, “I don’t understand the hostility to oil and gas. We drilled our first wells here in Oklahoma in 1897. We drink the water here and use it for agriculture. We are sensitive to environmental protection yet also understand you need natural resources to develop an economy.”

Cloud opposes the push for cap-and-trade taxes as part of a frenetic push to address global climate change, is convinced the health care program being crafted in the nation’s capital is unsustainable, and worries about “America’s current, inconsistent trumpet in the world.”

He said, “So, two years from now I hope Congress is not in session, but has adjourned for the year. When it is in session, I hope we’re working on rolling back some of the recent excesses, and taking steps to reduce runaway federal spending. That is going to be hard and difficult work.”

In foreign policy and relations, Cloud said he has studied issues for years, but took lessons away from trips abroad, including a 2008 visit to the Middle East. In that region, “I’m not sure a two-state solution will work. I do know we need to stand firm with Israel, our only truly ally in the region.”

Cloud said he believes there is, and should be, “a healthy friction between the way business is conducted in the U.S. House and the way things operate in the Senate.” The House, he argues, needs to be a more challenging environment, whereas the Senate naturally works as a more collegial environment.”

Cloud said he enjoys work at the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, where he presently serves. Last Friday (Dec. 18) when he talked with CapitolBeatOK, Commissioner Cloud had just been involved in deliberations on possible creation of an “overlay” area code for the Tulsa area, in addition to the 918 area code already serving the region.

Analysts believe 918 numbers will be exhausted within a few years. Cloud and Commission Chairman Bob Anthony have favored the overlay, while Commissioner Dana Murphy voted against it. Cloud concluded last week’s deliberations by asking for another round of discussion on the matter.

Cloud said he believes, “the best regulation is competition itself. I have found it rewarding to set ground rules to explore and develop the best ways to use our natural resources, of which we have such abundance. Something I enjoy about the Commission’s work is its transparency. You know, we may be the only elected body in the country that takes a public vote every day we work.”

In the interview, he said he is not unhappy at the Commission, but believes, “I have the best experience and skill set at this particular time for this particular position in Congress.” Many analysts give Cloud an edge in what has developed into a seven-candidate field, but others contend the race is wide open. Candidates include former state Rep. Kevin Calvey, state Rep. Mike Thompson and Dr. Johnny Roy. Both Calvey and Roy ran credible but unsuccessful races for the position in 2006.