One of my political heroes is Dr. Tom Coburn, U.S. Senator from Oklahoma. I got to know Dr. Coburn when he was elected to the U.S. House as part of the 1994 Republican Revolution. For the next six years he led the charge against wasteful spending, health care reform and transparency in government. Then, holding to a self-imposed three-term limit, he retired from Congress and went back to the full-time practice of medicine (a family practitioner in Muskogee, OK).
In 2004 he decided to run for the open Senate seat vacated by retiring Sen. Don Nickles. I had the distinct privilege of spending the last two months of the 2004 election cycle in Oklahoma helping get Dr. Tom elected to the Senate in what became one of the fiercest Senate races in Oklahoma history. I used to joke with people in Oklahoma as I traveled around coordinating the campaign that “I don’t know anything about campaigning, but I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night!” It was relevant because I did, in fact, live in a Holiday Inn Express in Muskogee, OK for 62 nights in a row (I spent the last few nights of the campaign in Tulsa). I had a hard-boiled egg and a cinnamon roll nearly every morning.
My roommate and side-kick during that campaign was communications pro, Mike Steel (no, not that Michael Steele) who is now the Communications Director the U.S. House Republican Leader John Boehner. We spent an unhealthy amount of time together and I will never hear a Big and Rich tune without rollin’ across Oklahoma in a rented Monte Carlo running the campaign with a cell phone and a blackberry. (It was my work on the Coburn campaign that led to a Washington Post profile of my wife Julie in a story about the toll politics can take on families, and how my wife has earned sainthood for tolerating my work schedule.)
Coburn amassed a great team of people to help him in that race. The Oklahoma contingent included Mike Schwartz, Curt Price, Jerry Morris, Brian Treat, Greg Treat, Courtney Cox, Jane (now Treat), Martin Updike, John Hart, Tyler Faught, Tim Barr, Patrick Wyrick, Derek Sparks, and others who, embarrassingly, I can’t remember names. Chairing the victory operation was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever known, Mike Willis, and he had Austin and some others helping him.
The out-of-towners included me, Steel, Jason Miller and also Jon Lerner doing the polling and John Brabender and Rob Aho doing the media. There were a ton of others that came in towards the end, and Congressman John Shadegg spent a lot of time on conference calls assisting with strategy.
All this walk down memory lane came as a result of Dr. Tom’s announcement on Monday that he will run for re-election. A video of his announcement is here.
All you need to know is in this video produced by the folks at Brabender Cox: