Carson announces Senate bid

Wednesday, October 15th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) _ Congressman Brad Carson, Oklahoma's lone Democrat in Washington, said Tuesday he wants to do more for the state and will vie for the seat of retiring Sen. Don Nickles.

Carson said he plans to serve out his second congressional term but is willing to risk his ``entire political future on the belief that we can do things better.''

``People want a senator who will fight for them,'' he told The Associated Press. ``I think they're going to vote for the candidate who wants to meet that need. ... I think people are less concerned about party affiliation.''

Carson first made his announcement on two conservative radio programs on stations KRMG in Tulsa and KTOK in Oklahoma City, an indication, he said, of his willingness to appeal to voters of all stripes.

``I do not have powerful political allies who lend me the credibility of their names or the force of their organization,'' he said. ``But I do have something far mightier: powerful ideas about how to make our state and country better.

``And I still believe that, in politics, powerful ideas are more important than powerful friends,'' he said during a press conference at the state Capitol.

He pointed to a record that he said showed he had worked for better conditions in nursing homes, promoted economic development in rural Oklahoma and helped build three community health centers ``while others ignored the mounting health care crisis in our state.''

Carson said he alone had fought for the people living in northeastern Oklahoma's Tar Creek Superfund Site, where lead and zinc mining have left behind numerous health and safety hazards. The urging of a young mother of four there, Missy Beets, played a role in his decision to run, he said.

``I promised Missy that, if such an opportunity arose, I wouldn't forget her urging,'' he said. ``And it is for Missy Beets _ and those Oklahomans who, like her, need help but don't know where to turn _ that I now run for the United States Senate.''

Carson also said, if elected, he would work to prevent the closure of Oklahoma's four military bases and an ammunition plant in McAlester. The Defense Department is expected to recommend closures in 2005.

Leveraging more federal transportation dollars for the state would also be a priority, Carson said.

``We've got to fight for our fair share,'' Carson said. ``We have some of the worst roads in the country. There are people who work for the Department of Transportation who don't drive on those bridges because they are such a threat.''

Carson, 36, said a more formal announcement detailing his platform would be made at a later date.

He called himself a voice of moderation and said that Oklahomans are hungry for a senator in the tradition of Democrats such as Bob Kerr and David Boren and Republican Henry Bellmon.

``My record is one of being a centrist in Congress and being a fiscal conservative,'' he said. ``I'm a conservative Democrat and that's what I think the bulk of Oklahomans are.''

Carson hinted at Sen. Jim Inhofe's endorsement Monday of Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys for the job. Both Republicans talked of being pilots and touching down around the state in their airplanes.

The Democrat said he didn't have an airplane and instead would drive himself around the state in his old blue pickup truck ``which now has north of 120,000 miles on it.''

Nickles, R-Okla., announced last week that he would not seek re-election in 2004.

On Sunday, U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla., who was considered a top contender, said he would not run.

Others considering the race include Attorney General Drew Edmondson and state Treasurer Robert Butkin, both Democrats, and state Rep. Mike Fair, R-Oklahoma City.

Carson is a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of fiscally conservative Democrats who bill themselves as a bridge between ideological extremes.

He also is a member of the Cherokee Nation and is a former Rhodes Scholar with a master's degree in politics, philosophy and economics from Oxford. He also holds a bachelor's degree from Baylor University and a law degree from the University of Oklahoma.

Carson and his wife, Julie, have a home in Claremore.