TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe said Wednesday that he will seek a fourth term in the U.S. Senate, telling supporters be believes liberals are endangering the country and saying he had a successful track record of fighting the president's administration.
"Washington liberals have our country on a crash course, and it's doing damage right here at home," Inhofe said in a statement announcing he was running. "The Obama administration's destructive policies have resulted in the hollowing of our military, a staggering job market from excessive regulations and a struggling economy from big government spending."
His re-election bid was anticipated for months, and it lacked the publicity typically associated with such announcements. He told supporters at a private event Tuesday and gave some media advance interviews on an embargoed basis.
"It's no secret that I've long been concerned with the direction President (Barack) Obama has us heading on many different areas," Oklahoma's 78-year-old senior senator said Wednesday in emailed answers to questions from The Associated Press. "His administration and his allies in Congress have been systematically hollowing out our military, which not only affects our ability to defend ourselves but it does severe damage to our economy here at home and to the men and women who put our country's uniform on every day."
Inhofe's repeated claim that Obama was gutting the military was characterized as "irresponsible" a day earlier by a Washington D.C. watchdog group, Taxpayers for Common Sense. The group, which advocates for the responsible spending of federal tax dollars, said targeted cuts that end wasteful or unneeded government programs can be an effective way to cut spending.
Inhofe accused the president of over-regulating the economy, saying it hurts farmers and businesses, but he didn't offer specific examples about how.
He also said Obama has "declared war" on fossil fuels and blocked development of the Keystone XL pipeline. Obama recently said the proposed pipeline project's effect on the job market would be a "blip" compared to what's needed in the overall economy. And Obama's energy policy has embraced an "all of the above" strategy, and the administration and other policy groups have constantly dismissed the war rhetoric from Republicans.
Inhofe's only declared opponent, Democrat Matt Silverstein, a 32-year-old financial planner from Bixby, said he's in the race to rein in wasteful spending and permanently ban earmarks.
"I'm not going to Washington to make friends. I'm going there to get our fiscal house in order," he said Wednesday.
Inhofe, who would be 80 at the start of another term in 2015, said Wednesday that he's running for re-election instead of retiring because he has work left to do to defend what he says are Oklahoma's values for future generations, including members of his own family.
"(My wife) Kay and I have 20 kids and grandkids and the direction our country is heading is threatens their very future ... and it has grave consequences for future generations. Our kids and grandkids deserve better," he said.
Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, made similar claims against the Obama administration when he spoke Tuesday before a group of active-duty and retired Air Force personnel in Oklahoma City, accusing the president of "intentionally doing what he can to disarm America."
Again, that specific criticism was challenged by the watchdog, which stated that after all proposed cuts are implemented, the US military would be the same size it was in 2007, and that it was common for the military to be in downsize mode post-war.
In addition to his ranking role on the armed services committee, Inhofe is the senior member on the Environment and Public Works Committee and his campaign says he has consistently been ranked among the most conservative members in the Senate.
He has been married to Kay, his wife, for 53 years and lives in Tulsa.