Southeastern Oklahoma State University played host to a Republican Party Senatorial Debate Wednesday evening.
Five of the seven Republican candidates looking to fill the remainder of Senator Tom Coburn’s term were there to discuss their views on hot-button issues.
The five candidates present included Andy Craig, Kevin Crow, Rep. James Lankford, Eric McCray and former State Sen. Randy Brogdon.
The candidates answered questions about issues such as the current VA scandal and the recent trade made by the government to bring home one U.S. soldier from Afghanistan for five Guantanamo terrorism detainees.
Candidates also discussed their views on national spending and education. On the topic of veteran care and veteran benefits, all candidates agreed that this is not a new issue, but one that needs to be addressed.
“We need to honor the commitment we made to our veterans,” said Brogdon.
When asked if the White House violated U.S. policy by negotiating with terrorists by trading five Guantanamo terrorism detainees for a U.S. soldier held in Afghanistan, the answer was a unanimous “yes.”
Some candidates even suggested the action called for the impeachment of the president. Lankford said not only did this action cost the lives of six other American soldiers, but it put several more U.S. citizens at risk.
Lankford said he was informed that American missionaries do not feel safe around the world now, “because if that American missionary is picked up, those terrorists know ‘I can swap them for someone in Guantanamo Bay.’”
Candidates disagreed on the issue of removing troops from the Middle East. Craig and McCray said their opinions would not be popular, but they did not feel that all U.S. troops should be removed at this time.
McCray said that we have not finished our work in Afghanistan and should not leave until we have finished.
Craig backed this opinion, saying that Afghanistan is not ready to stand on its own. He said if we pull our troops from Afghanistan, “it will fall.”
Other candidates did not agree. Crow said that it would cost less in American lives go back in 20 years if needed rather than stay for 20 years.
He also said that it is not the job of the U.S. to fight for other people’s freedom.
“If they can’t fight for themselves, tough,” said Crow. Candidates also discussed minimizing the government’s role in businesses and education.
After the forum, guests were able to mingle with the candidates at a reception. The next in this series of forums will be held Friday in Lawton.
- Jessica Breger can be reached at (580) 924-4388 ext. 116 or on Twitter @jbreger_news