Are you convinced that all candidates running for political office are the same?
Do you see “politics” as just another career choice, where candidates work their way up the ladder and — once elected to the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate — use their power, influence and our tax dollars to keep their jobs for life?
Are you annoyed that the party establishment hand-picks the candidates to fill the important posts, then lays out the bread crumbs for the rest of us to dutifully follow to the polls?
Just when you thought there was no way that an honest, selfless citizen could hack his way into the political hierarchy, along comes a man who breaks all those unwritten rules and comes out on top.
However, Dr. Tom Coburn, the family physician from Muskogee, Oklahoma, who just won the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Don Nickles, is one extraordinary man.
Kirk Humphreys was the candidate endorsed by the big-name officeholders in the state. All the major political players had put their money on the former Oklahoma City mayor, who had amassed a huge campaign war chest.
However, when the polls showed that Humphreys would have a hard time pulling out a win against Brad Carson — the charismatic, Clintonesque, two-term congressman who walked away from the field in the Democrat primary — Coburn belatedly threw his hat into the ring.
It was not an easy decision for Coburn, who recently battled cancer. Between 1995-2001, Dr. Coburn had extended himself to become a true citizen legislator, dividing his time between Muskogee and Washington, DC in order to serve in the House of Representatives. Indeed, he was a throwback to an earlier time!
In 1994, Colburn was part of that gang of 74 fresh-faced Republican congressmen who were swept to victory with the “Contract with America.” He promised voters in his Democratic district that he would only serve three two-year terms and then come back home. He wanted to make sure that he didn’t get caught up in Washington so he also promised voters that he would return to Muskogee two days each week to treat patients and deliver babies. He kept both promises.
Coburn gained a reputation for making life difficult for Republican Party leaders who backed away from promises made to the voters to cut spending and shrink the size of government. At times, Dr. Coburn had to take out his surgical scalpel and perform a spendingectomy. During his six years in Washington, he was the glue that held conservatives in the House together. That is because Dr. Coburn never was caught up in the power and glitz that goes with being a congressman.
He isn’t looking forward to living out of a suitcase again in order to serve in the U.S. Senate and, frankly, there are some members of his own party who aren’t all that anxious to have him join them. That’s because Coburn’s goal isn’t to be a U.S. senator. His goal is to change the Senate. He has promised to serve two six-year terms and only two terms.
Dr. Coburn has been described as a young Ronald Regan and a real-life “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” However, his life also bears a resemblance to that of Eric Liddell, the Scottish sprinter who was portrayed in the movie, “Chariots of Fire.” Liddell won a gold medal in the 1924 Olympics after refusing to participate in the 100 meters when the preliminary dashes were scheduled on Sunday. Rather than run on the Sabbath, Liddell chose to compete in the 400 meters, a race for which he had not trained.
Coburn is a deeply religious man. Despite his late entry in the race and being outspent by Humphrey’s 4-1, Coburn would not campaign on Sunday or allow anyone else to campaign for him on the Sabbath.
When Humphreys broke a campaign promise and went negative, distorting Coburn’s voting record on military and crime issues, Coburn refused to partake of the mudslinging.
In 1924, Eric Liddell, was the surprise winner in the 400 meters, finishing five meters ahead of the silver medalist: In 2004, Tom Coburn beat Humphreys in the Republican primary by more than a two to one margin, embarrassing the party establishment by coasting to victory without a runoff.
Liddell made it very clear that his motivation for running wasn’t to win but to serve God. He said, “When I run I feel His pleasure.” That is the same force that will be driving Dr. Tom Coburn toward the finish line this November.