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Right-wing Senate candidates share political positions at well-attended OCPAC event

Liz Burleson / Red Dirt Report
Oklahoma Political Action Committee's Charlie Meadows introduces (l-r) Senate candidates Randy Brogdon, James Lankford and T.W. Shannon.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – As the race to fill the seat being vacated by U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn heats up, the Oklahoma Conservative Political Action Committee (OCPAC) held a luncheon event Wednesday, at Olivet Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, to allow its conservative membership to hear the positions of all three Republican Senate candidates – U.S. Rep. James Lankford, State Rep. T.W. Shannon, and former State Sen. Randy Brogdon.

And by the time the candidate encounter was over, the OCPAC members voted overwhelmingly to endorse Brogdon, the most far-right and reactionary of the trio.

But before the vote, Brogdon, Lankford and Shannon tried to outdo one another in terms of demonstrating their conservative bona fides before the standing-room only crowd of 200 or so which skewed towards middle-age and older men and women and almost 100-percent white.

“We should not wake up every morning, wondering what the IRS is going to do to us today,” Brogdon thundered. “Wondering what the EPA is going to do.”

Added Brogdon: “Washington, D.C. has never been on my bucket list.”

The man who once thought  also told those assembled that he has a voting record and the other two have a voting record and that that makes all the difference.  It was clear, from the applause emanating from the room, that Brogdon was much beloved by this crowd.

The former House Speaker, T.W. Shannon, reminded the crowd of his achievements as speaker and how he said no to the “Obamacare Medicaid expansion” in Oklahoma.

Shannon, from the military town of Lawton, is a fervent supporter of the military and believes in “American exceptionalism.”

“We have a situation where our friends no longer trust us and our friends no longer fear us,” Shannon said. “We need to support our allies like Israel.”

Shannon, a rather untested candidate lacking in national experience, but getting a lot of attention on the national stage, seemed to strike the audience as not quite ready for prime time, despite major endorsement from nationally-recognized conservatives like Sarah Palin and the latest darling of the right - Ted Cruz.

Lankford, meanwhile, came across as the most knowledgable of the three, having spent the past three years in Washington getting his conservative views tested on Capitol Hill while representing Oklahoma's 5th congressional district. His delivery was measured but succinct.

Lankford's seeming stuffiness did come across but the crowd seem to react to his criticism of Attorney General Eric Holder and the "Fast & Furious" scandal which ended up with a murdered U.S. Border Agent named Brian Terry. He also went after Lois Lerner of the IRS, which earned him some smiles and applause.

From here, OCPAC leader Charlie Meadows emceed the event, asking a few questions, along with questions from the audience.

Lankford's knowledgeable approach on economics, "balancing the budget" and monetary policy seemed almost wonkish at times for this Birch-lite, "red meat" crowd. By not saying the United Nations building in New York should be razed to the ground may have hurt him. Brogdon, meanwhile, said he wanted to shut the United Nations down and "run them out of New York City."

Brogdon, however, did not let them down with his reminders of him stopping the NAFTA Superhighway, which, he said, would have been "the largest private-property confiscation in U.S. history." Free trade, Brogdon said, is actually "managed trade" and is a piece of the puzzle into America losing its sovereignty.

The Ron Paul-styled libertarian Republican said the federal government is too involved in the business of Oklahoma businesses.

"We've got to get Washington, D.C. out of our businesses here in Oklahoma," Brogdon said, adding later - to great applause - that it was time to "audit the Fed."

Selling more people on conservative principles - including immigrants - should be key, Shannon said, rather than expecting them to embrace government programs. 

Not surprisingly, the issue of Islamic Shariah law was brought up by a man seriously concerned that it as coming to America. Lankford shared his experience in Wales where areas of a city were cordoned off and left to the Muslims to take care of. Not only is Islam a religion, it's a "governmental system," he explained. 

"A person has a right to a faith, they do not have a right to take over our government,"Lankford said. "It should be prohibited."

Of course, Brogdon and Shannon both shared their opposition to Shariah law having any standing in the U.S., but with Shannon adding that when talking about immigration, securing the borders should be a priority.

"We've got to be committed to 'no amnesty,'" Shannon said.

And while Shannon talked about "returning to the Constitution," it didn't quite resonate the way one would expect when Shannon pulled in less than 20 percent of the OCPAC vote and endorsement.

Brogdon said to deal with the immigration "problem," bold leadership was required and he is the man to take of that problem. He suggested closing the borders until they are secure. He wants to stop the immigration "lottery" where 55,000 people are chosen at random from countries around the world and offered one of the "diversity immigrant visas."

"We have no idea if they are going to be a drain on our society or if they are going to be a benefit to our society," Brogdon said of these new immigrants, adding with plenty of froth, "And while we do have legal immigrants - track their visas! Put a chip in it! ... certainly we track illegal immigrants."

And while Brogdon received plenty of applause by his blustering, nativist statements, some were puzzled that this "anti-surveillance" advocate was suggesting that people be tracked with a chip.

And while Brogdon said if he is elected to the U.S. Senate he would not vote for Sen. Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader, he suggested that Lankford's non-committal statement was just a typical, Washington-styled "soft-shoe shuffle." Brogdon would later state that he is a firm supporter of the Right to Bear Arms, while Shannon would say that right is actually a "God-given right."

Shannon, who arrived late to the OCPAC luncheon, seemed uncomfortable in this environment. Brogdon seemed fired up and hostile. Lankford, while forceful at times, was a bit languid.

This crowd is already familiar with Randy Brogdon and many supported him back in 2010. Perhaps they see in him what they have seen in Tom Coburn over these many years. But with a shaky kick-off to a campaign that nearly wasn't, Brogdon may have trouble getting the momentum he needs to overcome T.W. Shannon's national endorsements and James Lankford's existing campaign war chest and undeniable familiarity with the ways of Washington.

Talking to a native of Bangalore, India, a traveling Christian minister named the Rev. Matthew Jacob, told Red Dirt Report that the candidates were "equally matched" and that he felt Lankford and Brogdon probably had the best chances. Jacob added that America needs to return to prayer and "Godly principles." Added Jacob: "I pray for America."

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