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Okla. congressional candidates vow term limits

Sean Murphy

Taking a page from the political playbook of U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, two GOP candidates for the open 2nd Congressional District seat in eastern Oklahoma said Monday they plan to serve no more than three terms if elected to Congress.

State Rep. George Faught, R-Muskogee, and Adair County businessman Markwayne Mullin both told The Associated Press they would limit themselves to six years in office.

Faught and Mullin both are seeking the seat in eastern Oklahoma being vacated by current U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, the lone Democrat in the state's congressional delegation.

"I don't want to be up there (in Washington) and become part of the problem," said Mullin, 34, owner and CEO of Mullin plumbing. "If we can't accomplish anything in six years, it's a waste of time anyway."

Faught, who kicked off his campaign at a rally in Muskogee on Saturday, said he always has been a strong supporter of term limits because it reinforces the concept of citizen legislators.

"The idea is to serve time as citizen legislators and then return to the same laws they created, not wind up as career politicians," said Faught, 49, who owns and operates a carpet cleaning business in Muskogee. "I think we've seen people who have become institutionalized and their whole persona is wrapped up in the position they hold."

Coburn, a Muskogee physician, vowed to serve no more than two terms in the U.S. Senate. He won re-election to a second term in November by the widest margin of any statewide candidate in Oklahoma _ earning more than 70 percent of the vote. Coburn, a Republican, previously followed through on his promise to serve no more than three terms in the U.S. House before stepping down after the 2000 election to return to his medical practice.

But self-imposed term limits could pose a detriment to a congressman by preventing them from achieving enough seniority and influence in Washington to benefit their home state, said Wallace Collins, chairman of the Oklahoma Democratic Party.

"In a sense, I almost think it's naive for someone to make that kind of pledge," said Collins, a former state lawmaker. "In six years, they would just at that point be able to get on powerful committees to help the state.

"The idea of a citizen legislator is a great idea; reality is different."

While Faught and Mullin both are clearly running for Boren's seat, other Republicans eying the race are former Tishomingo Mayor and attorney Dustin Rowe, and former state Rep. Wayne Pettigrew.

Although no Democrats have formally announced their candidacy, among those considering a run are former state Sens. Kenneth Corn and Ben Robinson, current state Sen. Jim Wilson, and former LeFlore County District Attorney and current Assistant U.S. Attorney Rob Wallace.

The 2nd Congressional District, which covers 26 counties from the foothills of the Ozark Mountains in northeast Oklahoma to the Red River border with Texas, is considered a stronghold for Democrats, who outnumber Republicans 65 percent to 26 percent. Nearly 27 percent of the state's Democrats reside in the current district, which will change only slightly under the new district map approved by the Legislature earlier this year.

But Republican presidential candidate John McCain defeated President Barack Obama by a nearly two-to-one margin in the district, and Oklahoma's GOP Chairman Matt Pinnell said he's confident the right GOP candidate can win in the district.

"The money will be there for whoever our nominee is," Pinnell said. "We've had historic fundraising quarters, and the (National Republican Congressional Committee) will be heavily investing in that race."

The Associated Press