Republican Congressional Candidates Hold First Debate In Downtown Tulsa

Friday, June 17th 2016, 4:44 pm
By: Emory Bryan

Tulsa's Republican candidates for congress met in a debate Friday, as the primary that's key to the election draws near.

With less than two weeks before the vote, challenger Tom Atkinson is trying to get some traction against incumbent Jim Bridenstine.

The two candidates met at the Summit Club in downtown Tulsa and hit on conservative themes like federal spending, the deficit and immigration reform.

“We should not be rewarding people who break our laws, so border security is critical, it's one reason Donald Trump is our nominee,” Bridenstine said.

Both want a wall on the southern border, and both think the federal government needs to be reined in, but they disagree on how to do it and whether Bridenstine has been effective in D.C.

“Which of those bills has actually become law, signed into law? Zero,” Atkinson said.

He challenged Bridenstine's vote against comprehensive legislation because of individual issues instead of using the process to make it better.

Atkinson said, "And negotiate the best deal for the people of the first district of Oklahoma. That's what this is about, not the typical Washington infighting."

Bridenstine said negotiation sometimes comes through outright rejection, to get a better deal down the road.

"We're talking about things like planned parenthood. Should I violate my core principles and compel my constituents to pay for other peoples’ abortions to pass this massive spending package," he said.

Atkinson said his experience as an oilman taught him it's a process to make improvements.

“Take the good out of these bills and go back the next day and chip away at the bad. Just like Obamacare, you've got to chip away at the bad until we get that repealed,” he said.

The primary election is June 28.

Another almost unknown Republican is in the primary, and an independent is in the race, so it won't really be final until November.

Bridenstine is running for his third, and what he says, will be his final term.