Rep. Thompson focused on jobs, economic growth as 5th C.D. race unfolds

By Patrick B. McGuigan

Published: 28-Apr-2010

First elected to the state House of Representatives in 2004, Mike Thompson is seeking the Republican nomination for the Fifth Congressional District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, who is running for governor.

In an interview with CapitolBeatOK, Thompson said his personal experiences and focus on family and future make him the best person for the job. He said, “The reason I’m in this race is the future of my two kids. We’ve facing $13 trillion of debt in our country. That simply shocks me when it comes to the future that Mitchell and Madelynn will face. We have to get our country’s fiscal house back on track.”

Concerning those two children and his wife, he reflects, “Obviously the best decision I’ve ever made, the most important decision of my life, was marrying my wife of 10 years, Hayley.”

Thompson touts himself as “a consistent conservative. I’ve been willing when necessary to take on my own party. I bucked the leadership when they helped promote the largest budget increase in state history in 2006. … I also opposed spending $350,000 to repair the pool at the governor’s mansion.”

“As for my experience, I think the time I’ve spent in the private sector is key. Selling or leasing commercial real estate is a challenging business. I have success in that and understand and have lived all the challenges facing small businesses.”

At the state Capitol, where he chairs the Energy and Utility Regulation Committee, he says, “The energy and utility regulatory work has been gratifying. My emphasis has been broader than the laws and regulations. I have put a lot of emphasis on these issues as an aspect of national security. Oklahoma needs to use its own natural resources wisely.”

Thompson continued, “That is particularly true of natural gas. It is the bridge fuel to the future. It’s abundant and clean, and we have well over a 100-year supply. …. If Brazil can move in this direction it seems clear to me we can do the same in Oklahoma and in America. They have CNG vehicles everywhere. We need to take our markets in the same direction.”

Turning to the national stage, Thompson says, “There are a lot of issues that take a long-range vision and plan. They are doing a lot of things wrong in Washington. There is an understanding that any comprehensive federal energy plan should encourage diversifying our energy portfolio as a country. We’ve taken some steps in that direction.”

Concerning the president, he continued, “How to work with Barack Obama, that’s tough. There is already a Natural Gas Coalition and I’d certainly become part of that in Congress. One element I plan to push is for more on-shore drilling and incentives to pursue that. Barack Obama has not been as reception to Natural Gas as any of us would like.

“I was astonished that he didn’t even mention natural gas in his inaugural address. It flies in the face of common sense to not even mention a resource that plentiful and and clean and abundant, but he didn’t.”

Thompson suspects this election cycle will influence the president’s thinking: “My sense is that he will be more open to working with natural gas advocates after this fall’s congressional election than he has been so far. I believe the process we’ll see is similar to what happened with Bill Clinton after 1994.”

He says the most satisfying thing about his work in the Legislature has been “the ability to work on jobs, on creating more opportunities for young people to get jobs here and thereby stay in Oklahoma. … I want to create more ways to keep people like that here with dynamic economic growth and expansion of jobs.”

He continued, “I have found it gratifying to be involved in steadily taking Oklahoma’s transportation infrastructure up a notch. Transportation is an important economic development and public safety issue. What’s happened these past few years is we’ve been able to devote more money to transportation infrastructure and improvements without raising taxes. And, of course, the work on a state energy plan that is pro-drilling and pro-energy has been satisfying. Oklahoma is unique as a producing state where people ‘get it’ when it comes to the importance of the energy industry.

“A final thing I’d say is that the improvements we’ve made in the tort reform, or lawsuit reform, area have been important, and it was satisfying to join in the team effort on that.”

On the other side of the ledger, “I must say the fight over workers comp has been frustrating. … I am fortunate to have a master’s degree, as does my wife. But our family roots are people who have held good blue collar jobs. It is those kind of jobs we haven’t done right by, yet, in Oklahoma. Those good jobs need to be nurtured, and a very direct way to do that is to lower workers’ comp insurance costs so money is available to create and, as importantly, to retain those jobs. I must say the lack of more progress on workers’ comp has been a very frustrating circumstance to witness. For what we’ve done in the last few years, I can’t give a grade higher than C+ or B-. I believe Oklahoma won’t have real reform until after we elect a new governor and make some other changes in our government.”

If elected to Congress, “The first priority will be to repeal Obamacare, the new federal health care law. I believe it is unconstitutional to require individuals to purchase health care, an economic service they might not want or need. … A second priority will be to stop the cap-and-trade legislation. I must say a number of Democrats are not going to go along with President Obama on that one. That is encouraging.

“Some other priorities including spending. … We have some tough decisions to make. It might help the process to have a Balanced Budget Amendment, a firm requirement to balance spending with income as we have here in Oklahoma. If their hands are not tied, Congress has demonstrated it won’t address the spending issue in a real way. Without a balanced budget requirement, I think we’ll continue to see the spending just increase and increase endlessly.”

Discussing his congressional campaign, Rep. Thompson said, “We follow up with the people I meet with as we go door-to-door and to events. I make a point of assuring voters were are working to protect them from Obamacare. S.J.R. 59, which I’m working on with Senator [Dan] Newberry [of Tulsa], is one way we’re achieving that.

“In politics and elections, it’s important to make sure that people understand who you are. Knowing my background and what I believe is the way forward, the way we’ll win. As they learn more about me, I believe voters identify with me more and more.”

Thompson had raised $721,000 as of the last reporting period, “with about $440,000 in the bank.” Since then, he told CapitolBeatOK with a smile, “Let’s just say we’ve done well.”