Josh Brecheen challenges Jay Paul Gumm
By Patrick B. McGuigan
Josh Brecheen, a field representative for U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn of Muskogee for five years, was among the first Republicans to file to challenge an incumbent Senate Democrat last week.
After registering his candidacy on Monday, Brecheen drove back to southeast Oklahoma for a 7 p.m. speech, where he publicly disclosed his decision to challenge District 6 Senator Jay Paul Gumm.
Brecheen, a rancher from Coalgate, discussed his philosophy in a wide-ranging interview with CapitolBeatOK the night before filing. In that conversation and in a press release circulated statewide last week, he conveyed a strong conservative philosophy aimed at wresting Gumm’s seat from Democrats.
“This has been a difficult decision, but after much prayerful consideration and counsel, I am all in,” Brecheen told CapitolBeatOK. “Oklahoma needs more I’m third leadership. (In his press release, Brecheen described this as “God first, fellow man second and I’m Third.”)
He is a graduate of Oklahoma State University, and served Oklahoma FFA Association as State President in 1998. He is also a horseman and a Choctaw.
In his release, Brecheen promised, if elected, to “focus on government efficiency, agriculture and education issues if elected to the state Senate.”
Both Brecheen and the incumbent point to family and friends as motivational in their approach to politics and policy. Brecheen is an admirer of his mother, the Cottonwood Schools Superintendent for 18 years. He says, “Giving public schools flexibility and the best tools possible will fuel ingenuity and enable their students to excel in ways the government couldn’t dream of.” Brecheen opposed forced consolidation.
In his announcement release, Brecheen assailed the Legislature as “the third highest part time paid legislature in the nation. In the four months the legislature is in session, lawmakers make eight thousand more dollars than the average Oklahoman makes while working all twelve months of the years to provide for their family.
“Those in elected office must earn the trust and respect of the taxpayer by not accepting an easy ride. Aside from their pay, Oklahoma also has the 19th-largest legislature in the nation. If the current slate of state politicians were to shoot straight about state budget cuts they would shrink this already high-paid legislative body from 149 members to around 100 members in proportion to geographical size.”
In his announcement release, Brecheen said he backs lawsuit reform and workers compensation reform, as a means to press for lower rural business costs: “You only have to look across the Red River to see where tort reform is working. Texas hospitals have increased charity care by 25% and access to physicians is drastically increasing while Oklahoma has the lowest number of physicians per capita in the nation. The average physician there has seen their malpractice insurance claims go down 30% while Oklahoma OBGYN’s have seen their premiums spike 30% plus during the same time frame.”
Brecheen and Gumm have generally similar views on the sale of water from Sardis Lake to Oklahoma City: “The state needs to retire the 5 million dollar payment [to the federal government] and then wait on the state water study to be completed by scientists. Once the water study is completed and all the information is transparent then discussion should begin. If there is excess, then a collaboration of SE Oklahoma communities ought to drive the discussion, including seats on the Oklahoma Water Resources Board, and have first choice at any mutually beneficial opportunities.”
Gumm and Brecheen are the nominees of their respective parties, and will face each other in the November election.