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Democrat Guild says he'll run against U.S. Rep. Russell for 5th District seat

Liz Burleson / Red Dirt Report
Tom Guild discusses a 2014 minimum-wage effort in Oklahoma City.
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Guild advocates for increase in national minimum wage up to $12.25 an hour

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Democrat Tom Guild is jumping into the 5th District House race because he thinks U.S. Rep. Steve Russell is on the “wrong side” of the issues.

Russell (R-Choctaw) faces re-election in November 2016. He was elected to his first term in 2014. Since arriving in Washington, D.C., Russell has become a strong voice for Republicans on foreign policy and military issues, including the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and the recent terror attack in Paris, France. Russell retired from the U.S. Army as a lieutenant colonel.

However, Guild isn’t trying to show his foreign policy acumen. He’s focusing on domestic issues such as raising the minimum wage, building a stronger national infrastructure with better roads and bridges, the national debt and improving the nation’s educational system.

Guild’s latest position paper demonstrates his support to increase the national minimum wage, raising it $1.25 a year for four years until it reaches $12.25 per hour, beginning in 2016.

“Once we’ve gotten it to a living wage, I would like to see it indexed to inflation,” Guild said during an interview with Red Dirt Report. “Oklahoma workers are being short-changed. I’d like to see it tied to inflation so we don’t have to do this every five, seven or 12 years. I think the American public seems willing to go that far ($12.25 an hour). The alternative is doing nothing. When you raised it for four years, you’re making progress.”

Guild claims he’s been told by economists that a gradual increase in the minimum wage will not damage the national economy. A study by the Chicago Reserve Board found that increasing the minimum wage will add $48 billion in economic activity. Guild also quoted a Congressional Budget Office study which found that raising the minimum wage would lift nearly a million workers out of poverty and increase pay for 16.5 million Americans.

“When the minimum wage is raised, families with sufficient incomes will create greater demand for goods and services,” Guild said in a position paper. “A clear majority of Americans and a clear majority of Democrats and Independents and a lot of Republicans would support such a proposal,” he said.

Closer to home, Guild said the hourly living wage needed to support one adult is $9.49, which is 31 percent more than the current minimum wage.

“The minimum wage is too low. Millions of Americans work full-time and earn less than $1,300.00 a month before taxes. These hard working Americans are predominately adults and many are heads of households. Single mothers and fathers try valiantly to raise kids on increasingly inadequate earnings.

They struggle to provide housing, food, clothing, transportation, and basic necessities for themselves and their families,” Guild said in the position paper on minimum wage.

Twenty-nine states have higher minimum wages than the federal requirement of $7.25 an hour and some cities have increased it even more. In the spring, Democrats unveiled a plan to boost the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020. Still, more than a dozen cities, including large ones like Seattle, Washington, D.C. and San Francisco and several others in California have pushed their minimum wage even higher since 2013. Seattle raised its minimum wage to $15 hour an hour.

In Oklahoma, the reaction was the opposite. The state legislature passed a bill that preempts cities from boosting the minimum wage higher than state requirement of $7.25 an hour.

Russell beatable

Guild, who has sought public office numerous times but never won, believes Russell can be beat next November.

“Russell is not as strong politically as James Lankford was when I ran against him in 2012,” he said.

As the Democrats’ nominee in 2012, Guild boasts that he received 97,504 votes, the most for any Democratic candidate in the 5th District in 25 years and the second most since statehood.

Still, the government and legal studies professor knows winning a congressional race in Republican-dominated Oklahoma is an overwhelming task.

“It’s always going to be a tough battle but there’s a clear difference between Russell and me on issue after issue. I’m already hitting him on several issues. Whether popular or not, he’s on the wrong side of the issues,” Guild said. “If I can get almost 100,000 votes against James Lankford, I can get that or more against Steve Russell.”

When pressed about foreign policy, Guild spoke with confidence in hindsight of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He contends putting troops in Syria would a mistake and called America’s involvement in the Middle East a “fool’s errand.”

Guild supports a multi-nation coalition to fight terrorism, and particularly in Syria, but said America needs to stop being the world’s “policeman.”

“It’s time for other countries to step up and pay for this fight,” he said. “The United States has gone above the call of duty.”

No other candidates have announced their intention to seek the 5th District congressional seat, which includes Oklahoma, Pottawatomie and Seminole counties. Declarations of candidacy will be filed in mid-April.

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