First-time candidate no newcomer to politics

Thursday, September 14th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CLAREMORE, Okla. (AP) _ Brad Carson is making his first run for public office, but the 2nd Congressional District candidate is no stranger to politics.

Carson, 33, was an intern for the late U.S. Rep. Mike Synar and worked on one of Democrat David Boren's Senate re-election campaigns.

He says he ``really got the political bug'' while working for Synar, a Muskogee Democrat, when Carson was a student at Baylor University.

Carson led the Aug. 22 Democratic primary in the 2nd District by almost 5,000 votes and meets state Rep. Bill Settle of Muskogee in Tuesday's runoff election.

He is promoting himself as the candidate of new ideas bent on ``bringing government back to the people.''

Although he and Settle seem to agree on most major campaign issues, such as education and health care, Carson says his positions are more detailed.

``I decided to run because there was a vacuum of leadership in the Democratic Party and no one seemed to be willing to step up and fill it,'' he said in an interview after a day spent at his headquarters making telephone calls to raise money for the final days of the runoff drive.

It is true that the Claremore attorney announced his intentions to run months before Settle, even before Carson was sure that Republican Tom Coburn was really leaving Congress.

For months, Carson has hammered his opponent for taking donations from special interests and for relying so much on help from his political allies in the Legislature.

It's representative, he says, of ``a political system that is broken.''

One way to repair the system is campaign finance reform that limits the amount of money that can be spent in congressional campaigns, along with the role of soft money in federal elections, Carson says.

Carson has had plenty of political savvy to draw on in his race, getting support from such notable Democrats as former gubernatorial nominee Laura Boyd and former Gov. David Walters, who has helped raise funds for Carson's campaign.

These are people, Carson said, who ``want to see a Democrat back in office and they think I can win. These are not people who want to back losers.''

Carson surprised the Settle camp with a late television campaign in the primary that was fueled by $100,000 in personal loans.

``It is taking a big risk,'' the candidate said. ``But we had to do it to compete with the special interests money he was raking in.''

Settle has questioned Carson's loyalty to HMO reform by pointing out that the law firm Carson worked for has filed a lawsuit against a recently enacted state HMO reform measure.

Carson said he has never represented an HMO and had nothing to do with the lawsuit.

``This is a desperate tactic by the Settle campaign,'' said Carson, who has inferred that Settle used his legislative position to pry contributions from the nursing home industry.

Carson, who counts Boren and Harry Truman as his political heroes, has raised some money from interests that normally back Republican candidates. Business-oriented BIPAC, for instance, gave him $5,000.

``I'm proud of my support from business,'' he says, adding that a Democrat cannot win without broad-based backing.

In one television ad, Carson portrays himself as a native son whose Indian ancestors came to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears.

Like Settle, Carson does have an Indian heritage and is on the Cherokee tribal rolls.

But he has spent much of his life out of Oklahoma. Carson was born in Arizona and the family traveled to several states because his father, Jack Carson, worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. In addition, his education has taken him to places like Oxford University in England, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

In 1997 and 1998, he worked at the Pentagon as a special assistant to the defense secretary.

Carson graduated from high school in Jenks. He is married and his wife, Julie, is his campaign treasurer.