Rep. Markwayne Mullin is seeking to "bring Oklahoma values" to the swamp in a crowded Senate Republican primary, with the race set for June 28.
Mullin, first elected to the House in 2012, is attempting to win the seat of retiring Sen. Jim Inhofe, an 87-year-old Republican who has held the seat since November 1994. Inhofe is leaving office with four years left on his current Senate term.
Mullin, 44, said the only way to change Washington, D.C., is to "start changing the resume you send up here," in an interview with the Washington Examiner.
"My life experience has been quite broad, but it's been business. And if you want to change the way we do things up here, then quit making political decisions and let's start making business decisions," said Mullin, who operated his family plumbing business, was once a professional mixed martial artist, and has repeatedly touted himself as an outsider from Washington politics.
REP. MARKWAYNE MULLIN HOPES TO FIGHT HIS WAY INTO THE SENATE
"I think, really, what we need to do is bring Oklahoma values to D.C. I've never understood why so many times we try to force D.C. back in the home states where people are representing them," he said.
"We've got the Oklahoma standard, right? We help neighbors. We don't expect the government to come in and save us. We pull up our own boots each day. And if a tornado comes through, neighbors are out there helping neighbors," Mullin said.
The congressman has elevated his name recognition considerably since he first assumed office in 2013. From his work on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in 2019 to his permanent assignment on the House Intelligence Committee, Mullin accelerated his national attention last summer when he engaged in an unsanctioned trip to Afghanistan to rescue an American family.
Speaking on energy, the Oklahoma representative blasted President Joe Biden's handling of soaring gas prices across the country. "If Biden really wants to get in this energy crisis, come talk to Oklahoma. We can sell it for him."
"Why is he going to Iran? Why is he going to Venezuela? Why is he going to OPEC and the Saudis asking them to solve the issue? We have it right at our feet, literally," Mullin said, touting Oklahoma as having an "all-of-the-above energy approach," given the state's diverse energy sector that includes crude oil, natural gas, coal, wind, solar, and hydrogen. "Tell me another state that has that," he added.
The congressman is closely aligned with former President Donald Trump’s policies and remains popular among the Trump base, which his allies hope will give him an edge in the race and a chance for a possible endorsement.
Last month, Mullin went down to Mar-a-Lago in Florida to speak with the former president about his Senate bid, a person familiar with the matter told the Washington Examiner. The person also noted Trump and Mullin had "favorable conversations," though Trump has held out on endorsing anyone for Inhofe's seat.
Mullin's move to run for Senate has also stirred a crowded race for the seat he is vacating for the 2nd Congressional District at a crucial time in Oklahoma's history when balancing the state's jurisdiction and tribal sovereignty has been a focal point of Republican Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt's radar. The landmark 2020 Supreme Court decision in McGirt v. Oklahoma legally designated over half of the state as "Indian Country," meaning only tribal prosecutors can bring forth charges against Native American residents who commit crimes against other tribal citizens.
Oklahoma's former Republican Party Chairman John Bennett is one of the candidates vying for Mullin's seat and previously told the Washington Examiner he believed congressional action was needed to alleviate the state's concerns about safety and law enforcement on tribal land, which prompted a rebuke from leaders of the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes recognized in Oklahoma.
“Since the Federal court ruling in the McGirt case, the FBI’s Oklahoma City field office has managed thousands of Indian Country cases, whereas previously the field office investigated approximately 50 criminal cases a year involving Native Americans,” the Justice Department recently told Congress in an annual budget request, asking for additional U.S. attorneys, FBI agents, and federal marshals to aid the region in expectation of a "surge" in nonviolent crimes.
"McGirt really threw things in a tailspin," said Mullin, who is also a member of the Cherokee Nation. But he quashed any idea that an act of Congress would alleviate the state's law enforcement concerns stemming from the landmark case.
"Because if Congress has to make a decision, that means we're going to have to choose. That's not going to happen. There's only two of us that are really in this fight, and that's Tom Cole and myself," Mullin said, referring to the representative for Oklahoma's 4th Congressional District.
Mullin said he has spoken with the Cherokee Nation "hundreds of times," including conversations with leaders of the Choctaw Nation and the Seminole Nation, among other tribal officials.
"And what they'll tell you is that 'well, we have an open-door policy,' but no one's walking through the door. So someone's going to have to extend that olive branch," he said.
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Other notable Republican candidates running for Inhofe's seat include former Environmental and Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt, ex-Trump Administration official Alex Gray, former Oklahoma House Speaker T.W. Shannon, state Sen. Nathan Dahm, and Luke Holland, Inhofe's chief of staff and preferred successor.
If nobody secures a majority in the Senate Republican primary, a runoff will be held Aug. 23. The GOP nominee will face off against former Democratic Rep. Kendra Horn, who won an Oklahoma City-based House seat in her party's 2018 wave but lost reelection two years later.