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Flying in the face of critics, Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe to run again

Republican senator from Oklahoma, who would be 80 at the start of another term, says he's not too old to run and that he is willing to tackle issues that others won't.
by Chris Casteel Modified: August 7, 2013 at 11:44 am •  Published: August 7, 2013

Sen. Jim Inhofe still flies upside down.

To his critics, that may seem an apt description of his worldview and approach to issues.

But to the 78-year-old pilot, it is literal.

“When people say: ‘You're too old to run (for re-election),' my response is always: ‘When I'm too old to fly an airplane upside down, then I'm too old to run.'

“Well last Saturday in Muskogee, I flew an airplane upside down.”

And he's running for re-election.

Though it has been clear Inhofe was planning to seek a fourth full term, he didn't make that official until Wednesday.

Inhofe, R-Tulsa, said he knows that his home state, one of the reddest in the nation, likely would elect a conservative Republican to succeed him if he retired. No Democrat has won a U.S. Senate seat in Oklahoma since David Boren in 1990, and the odds of one doing so in the middle of President Barack Obama's second term are — at best — long.

But Inhofe said in a recent interview that he wants to keep serving at least until his mid-80s because he views himself as something more than just another Republican vote.

“There are some things — it sounds self-serving to say this — that no one's going to do if I'm not here to do them,” he said.

“I'm talking about my three big things: energy, overregulation and the disarming of America that we're going through with this president.”

Unique interest in Africa

It is not the case that other lawmakers in Washington are unwilling to take on some of those issues; the GOP-led House has been churning out legislation for the past two years to aid domestic energy production and also has sought numerous times to limit the Obama administration's rule-making authority.

Plenty also have sounded the alarm about the deep cuts to the military — including Inhofe's colleague, the Oklahoma congressional delegate, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore.

But there is little question that Inhofe long ago staked out the opposing viewpoint in Congress to the scientific studies of man-made global warming; that he has challenged every step government officials have tried to take toward regulating hydraulic fracturing; or that he has become an expert on U.S. military missions by flying all over the world to visit bases and personnel.

Inhofe this year became the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Unique is his intense interest in Africa, which he has described at times in a way that makes it sound like Christian missionary work, though at taxpayer expense. He still goes to African countries two or three times a year and says he is forging relationships that serve U.S. humanitarian and national security purposes.

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by Chris Casteel
Washington Bureau
Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. After covering the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City, he moved to Washington in 1990, where...
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