Last year, Representative Dan Boren (D-OK) made the surprise decision to not run for re-election in 2012. The seat, described to me by one person as “the most Republican seat held by a Democrat” in the country, was immediately crowded with a myriad of candidates all vying to be the Republican nominee to represent the 2nd District of Oklahoma.
One of these candidates is George Faught. A longtime business owner who runs a carpet cleaning company with his son Jamison, George is a state representative with a strong conservative record. (Full disclosure: Jamison is a friend of mine, and this friendship led to a discussion late last year with the Faught campaign about my possibly working for them as a press secretary.) He sat down with me this morning for a phone interview to discuss the campaign and some of the national issues he would address as the 2nd District’s Representative.
Dustin Siggins (DS): So how is the campaign going? How many people are in the race? Obviously, the Republican primary winner is going to take the open seat, so what are you doing to win?
George Faught (GF): Things are going well. It’s a huge district – 26 counties, 7.5 hours from north to south, from Kansas to Texas – and there are 6 Republicans in the race, so I have a lot of work to do. We feel very positive after Huckabee endorsed us two weeks ago. We’ve had 50 endorsements since we launched the campaign, including Concerned Women for America, the Family Research Council and Gary Jones. Gary is the Oklahoma state auditor and a former GOP chairman. He’s also the first statewide officeholder to endorse anyone in the race, and so we’re honored to have his backing.
This race is really interesting because the district has a 70% Democratic registration advantage, yet every state elected office is held by Republicans. Of the national politicians, the only Democratic-held seat in the state is Representative Boren’s, and he’s retiring without endorsing anyone on either side of the aisle.
We’re using the Huckabee endorsement to advertise on radio, and we are scheduled to air ads on TV in June. Our fundraising is on schedule, and things are looking great.
DS: Why did you get into the race? When we talked last year, you said it was literally a last-minute decision.
GF: Well, it wasn’t quite last-minute; it’s more that I didn’t know that Dan Boren was going to leave office until he actually announced it. I wasn’t planning on running against an incumbent – I enjoy being a state representative and a business owner – but with the opportunity to make a difference with the national debt and trying to shrink the size of the federal government, I decided to step in and run.
DS: Earlier this week you were involved in a few minor controversies, including rejections of endorsements. Can you explain a little about that?
GF: Sure. I’ve been campaigning since last July. With control of both chambers in GOP control, we are expected to push entirely on principle. We had a personhood bill that turned into a resolution instead of legislation, and we all know that resolutions are useless. We as a Republican caucus weren’t pushing the personhood legislation, tax legislation, education legislation and other issues forward enough. So I put out a press release criticizing my colleagues and the governor for not standing up for principles.
My timing wasn’t the best, and I lost a couple of endorsements from non-leadership Republicans in the state house who thought that I should have focused solely on the failure of our party’s leadership to take the lead on these issues. I would point out it’s the non-leadership Republicans who should push leadership into passing legislation, and I would also point out that I have been campaigning for the past 10 months and am keenly aware of how our GOP voters want us as a party to be advancing these important issues. I have had overwhelming support from grassroots, every-day Republicans who are telling me that “it’s about time someone said” what was in the press release.
DS: Earlier this week, Speaker Boehner said he told the President there would be no debt ceiling increase unless we cut spending. Do you think this will actually happen? Do you support this strategy by the Speaker? Do you have a plan to cut spending?
GF: We should not increase the debt limit; we need to decrease spending. We need a new strategy. We can’t continue on the same policies of the last few years and decades. One of the problems with drawing a line in the sand is that you can erase it and draw a new one. If we refuse to make cuts we are drowning your generation and future generations with debt. Boehner has to stand and not blink this time. He should draw the line in concrete so it can’t be erased and redrawn. We can’t blink. Let’s do this legitimately, and stop the gimmicks.
DS: Where would you cut? Would you consider the elimination of tax loopholes to reduce the deficit?
GF: I think the tax code can certainly be changed. There are a lot of loopholes. We’ve worked on eliminating some of these at the state level. If you can eliminate loopholes and put the extra revenues towards deficit reduction, that’s fine. Tax simplification is extremely important for economic growth and fairness.
On the spending side, let’s look at government agencies and see if some of them can probably go away and those responsibilities come down to the states.
What I prefer are tax incentives, to get people to make investments first instead of doing what the federal government did with Solyndra and saying “Here’s the money! Good luck!”
I’d rather prove it can be done first, then incentivize. Force companies to make the investment first.
DS: Following up on your comment about cutting departments, you could cut out the Department of Education, the Department of Energy and the Department of Transportation without really making much of a dent in the federal deficit. About three-quarters of the federal budget consists of Medicare, Social Security, CHIP programs, Medicaid, defense spending and interest payments on the debt. Can I get you on the record regarding where in the above areas (except for interest payments, obviously, since that would cause a default on our debt) you’d look at cuts?
GF: Well, [Oklahoma’s] Senator Coburn has found waste and abuse in the Defense Department, and I think every department in the federal government has extra spending we can get rid of. I’d certainly be in favor of going through and establishing where spending is being done inefficiently.
Regarding the entitlement programs, we need to change mindsets on how retirement should work. Social Security was never designed to be the sole source of retirement income. We need to get back to a society where we have people working hard to make sure they have personal savings and work-related retirement pensions. The only way to have these retirement programs survive is to change mindsets.
And, yes, some people won’t like the changes. But we’ve done a lot of reforms at the state level that could work, such as putting in accountability for Medicaid, increasing personal responsibility, etc. We can do that on the federal level – prevent abuse of the system.
When it comes to Medicare, Paul Ryan has talked about increasing the retirement age for those under 55. Obviously the media and Democrats are saying he’s getting rid of Medicare when in fact he’s trying to save it. As much as I hate to use the phrase, ignoring the problem so we can “kick the can down the road” is simply irresponsible. Gradually increasing the retirement age should definitely be on the table.