WASHINGTON — Hours before he was to be sworn in Thursday as the new congressman for eastern Oklahoma, Markwayne Mullin went to pick up his congressional lapel pin and one for his wife, Christie.
The two pinned them on each other and Mullin said he felt like they were getting married again.
“And I came in and shared the story with Congressman (James) Lankford and he busted my bubble,” Mullin said at a Capitol Hill reception on Thursday.
“He goes, ‘When you got married, the ring represented the time you're going to spend together. When you get the pin, it represents the time you're going to spend apart.'”
Mullin, 35, a Republican from Westville, repeatedly thanked his wife and three young children for the sacrifices they made in his first campaign for public office and for the sacrifices to come as he spends weeks away from them.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Tulsa, another freshman, made a similar speech in the hour before he officially became a congressman, thanking his wife and three young children and his father, who came out of retirement to campaign for him.
Bridenstine, 37, and Mullin will be part of an Oklahoma congressional delegation that is all Republican for the first time since 2000.
Bridenstine told the veteran Oklahoma House members, family members, friends and congressional staff assembled for the reception that his immediate goal isn't to serve the 1st District of Oklahoma but to “save our country.”
“It's going to be daunting to say the least, but it's a true honor,” he said.
The parents of both Mullin and Bridenstine attended the ceremonies.
Mullin's father, Jim, said he never doubted his son would win the district once he announced his candidacy last year.
“Everything he's started, he's accomplished,” Jim Mullin said. “And he's never started even. He's always started behind.”
Mullin will be the first Republican to represent the district, which is heavily Democratic in registration, in its current configuration. Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, who represented the district from 2005 until this week, did not run for another term.
Jim Mullin said he thinks one of his son's accomplishments will be negotiating with members of the other party.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Moore, said Mullin's election doubled the number of American Indians in Congress. Cole is a Chickasaw. Mullin is a member of the Cherokee Nation.
Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker presented Mullin with a tribal blanket at Thursday's reception, and Cherokee Council member Jack Bauer read a resolution honoring Mullin's election to Congress.
“I know that Markwayne has the ability and the fortitude to make us extremely proud,” Bill John Baker said. “His mother never thought that he would be in Congress. She thought he might be president some day.”
Cole, who has been in Congress since 2003, was also sworn in Thursday for a new term, as were Lankford, an Oklahoma City Republican who has been in the House since 2011, and Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Cheyenne, who won his first term in 1994.