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Silverstein determined to be part of new crop of "fresh faces" in U.S. Senate

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
Matt Silverstein is running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Jim Inhofe
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OKLAHOMA CITY  -- Matt Silverstein is certain that the Oklahoma delegation to the United States Senate is going to have two new senators after next November’s elections.

“Oklahomans are ready to turn the page on politics and have two fresh faces in our Senate. And that’s exactly what they’re going to get,” he said.

There’s a ring of confidence in Silverstein’s voice when he talks about his future in politics, a conviction he owes to an encounter with the very man he’s challenging. In 2001, several months prior to the September 11th attacks, Silverstein said he sat next to U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe on a flight from Chicago to Tulsa.

“We had a two-hour discussion. A cordial, nice discussion,” he said. “When we got off the airplane, Sen. Inhofe approached my parents and told them he really enjoyed talking to their ‘bright son.’ He also told them that I should run for public office someday.”

One might see this encounter as a moment of destiny reminiscent of Bill Clinton’s encounter with President John F. Kennedy on July 24, 1963 while attending a Boys Nation conference in Washington D.C., but Silverstein waves it off.

“I’m not a career politician. I’ve been in private business as an investment planner helping Oklahoma families, and I believe the policies of Sen. Inhofe are putting families at risk.”

Matt Silverstein pulls no punches when criticizing Inhofe’s policies. He says that despite Inhofe’s blustering conservatism, “he is the crown prince of wasteful pork barrel spending, notorious for exploiting congressional earmarks.”

Back in 2005 Senator Inhofe voted no on an amendment offered by his associate Senator from Oklahoma, Tom Coburn, which would have defunded Senator Ted Stevens’ (R-Alaska) “bridge to nowhere.” The Gravina Island Bridge project became a controversy when Sen. Stevens pushed for funding on a bridge that nobody uses despite demands that the money would be better spent funding disaster aid in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In 2008, Sen. Stevens was found guilty on charges of federal corruption and lost his bid for re-election shortly thereafter.

Matt Silverstein also criticizes Inhofe for opposing a $1.1 trillion spending package, saying “not because the package was too much, but because the package didn’t have enough spending. This kind of attitude goes against the grain of sound fiscal policy, and it must be stopped.”

When asked about his chances as a Democrat running against a staunchly conservative Republican, Silverstein said, “I’m against wasteful spending. I’m against career politicians, and I think my voice would be a healthy addition to the Democratic Party.”

He pointed out that Senator Inhofe, despite making public statements in support of term limits, has himself been on the tax payers’ payroll since 1967 when he first won election to the Oklahoma State House of Representatives.

“Nobody else in Oklahoma’s history has asked to be on the public payroll for over 50 years,” said Silverstein.

Matt Silverstein has not held public office up to this point in his life. A graduate from Jenks High School and the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he studied political science, he’s focused his efforts on building his business as an investment planner for families.

He said he’s devoted to his wife and two children and wants to ensure their future. The financial crisis of 2008 and its aftermath was a major turning point in his life. He saw clients and their families struggling to keep their dreams intact.

“We live in an era when people are taking comedians seriously and laughing at politicians,” he said, referring to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. “A growing number of people are turning to The Daily Show for news and commentary, not just for entertainment.”

He said politicians like Inhofe have been supplying too much fodder for comedians like Stewart.

“It’s got to stop. We need to have leaders with integrity and transparency,” Silverstein said.

Though Silverstein is running for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat, he has no problem reaching across the aisle.

“I recently sent a note to Sen. Coburn, thanking him for the honest and principled way he’s approached government, and I’ve offered my prayers for his future in private life and for his family.”

When asked why he’s running for office, Silverstein said, “I’ve always been interested in public policy. There’s no better way to affect positive change than through public policy.”

He explained that much of Oklahoma’s problems are due to poor fiscal management, earmarked funding, and good old boy politics.

“We have a crumbling infrastructure, a failing education system. We need to get the economy working, reducing unemployment, and we need to make investments in job creation to protect our future.”

Silverstein is not a fan of partisan politics. He wants to bring a pragmatic approach to Washington D.C.

“Both parties have had it wrong for a long time. Washington is broken, and they’ve been doing very little correctly.”

If elected Matt Silverstein wants to bring people together, religious, civic, and business leaders to create networks of creative cooperation.

Said Silverstein: “I want to help people take on complicated issues and facilitate honest, open and transparent dialogues to solve problems.”

He also said he wants to see more transparency in the health care industry. He wants to help health-care consumers by informing them of the cost of procedures and hospital stays. If health care consumers have options, the industry will have to offer competitive rates.

“Right now, the sad part is that you can’t ask a doctor how much something costs. Even the doctors don’t know.”

Silverstein is looking forward to a debate with Sen. Inhofe, and he’s hoping Oklahomans will take a hard look at the issues, evaluate what’s been happening, and make their decisions based upon informed evaluation instead of partisan affiliations.

“I really believe politics is a calling, not a career, and I can’t sit back and watch what’s been happening. We’re not going to change the rules of the game without replacing the players.”

For more information on Matt Silverstein’s campaign for U.S. Senate, go to www.mattforoklahoma.com.

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Paula Sophia Schonauer

Paula Sophia Schonauer is a novelist, slam poet, community activist, veteran cop and parent. Her... read more

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