November 29, 2022
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Inhofe reflects on long career at OKC Chamber event

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U.S. Sen. James Mountain Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, appeared for what is expected to be his last DC Spotlight event with the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber on Thursday at Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City. (Photo by Janice Francis-Smith)

OKLAHOMA CITY – U.S. Sen. James Mountain Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, appeared for what is expected to be his last DC Spotlight event with the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber on Thursday.

Inhofe is serving his last few months as the senior U.S. senator from Oklahoma, a position he has held for 28 years. His successor, who will take office in January 2023, will be decided by voters on Nov. 8.

“I’m bailing out of this place,” said Inhofe, age 87 (He will be 88 on Nov. 17.). Inhofe characterized his lifetime of service in public office as motivated by love and the urge to do the right thing by the people who elected him – unlike many of his colleagues whose primary goal is simply to keep their job next election.

“I’m operating at about 89%,” Inhofe told Chamber Chairman Sean Trauschke at the DC Spotlight event, held at Oklahoma Christian University, 2501 E. Memorial Rd. in Oklahoma City.

“A lot of the guys I work with never would admit their frailties,” Inhofe said. “I know what my limitations are.”

Inhofe has served as an elected official for 55 years. Prior to his 28 years in the U.S. Senate, Inhofe served Oklahoma’s 1st District in the U.S. House of Representatives for seven years.

Before that, Inhofe served as mayor of Tulsa from 1978 until 1984, as a member of the Oklahoma Senate from 1969 to 1977, and in the state House of Representatives from 1967 to 1969. Inhofe lost his 1974 bid for Oklahoma governor to Democrat David Boren.

On Thursday, Inhofe said he had been privileged to spend a lifetime doing what he loved and doing some good for the people of Oklahoma.

As a pilot who has attended air shows and aviation events in London, Paris and all around the world, Inhofe said Oklahoma has a reputation for innovation in the aviation industry. Few people within the state realize the impact the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center in Oklahoma City has on the industry as a whole, Inhofe said – roughly $1.7 billion a year.

“I’ve got no motivation to say the right things to make you guys happy,” Inhofe said, as he reported that Oklahoma’s aviation industry is world-class.

As chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, Inhofe said he worked to support Oklahoma’s five military installations to be best in the nation.

“I want to make sure we have the best of everything, we have things nobody else has, and so to do that you really have to get along and we have done that successfully for a long period of time,” Inhofe said. Much of his success was his ability to work across the aisle in Congress, Inhofe said.

“People don’t realize that one of the few things I do better than anyone else is being able to get along with the other side,” Inhofe said. He and former California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer were friends and colleagues who managed to get things done, he said.

“We did everything right,” Inhofe said. Even far-left Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont went on record saying he had a great deal of respect for Inhofe, he said.

“I have a level of love for people that surpasses a lot,” Inhofe said. “That’s the best way I can describe it.”

Inhofe said he and his late colleagues John McCain and Tom Coburn did not see eye to eye on earmarks, which Inhofe used to ensure more federal funding flowed to Oklahoma.

Republicans who say earmarks are bad “are out of their minds,” Inhofe said. “If you don’t do it, it’s going to be done by whoever is in the White House…

“We’re supposed to make those decisions,” Inhofe said, adding that making those decisions has made him unpopular with some in Washington.

“As several people in this room know, I’ve always kind of ignored that in the past and enjoyed doing the things I thought needed to be and should be done,” Inhofe said. “We need to quit worrying about who we’re making happy and who we’re not and do the right job.”

Inhofe said he intends to continue making a contribution to public life when and where he can. But immediate plans are to spend more time at his lake property with his wife, Kay, whom he married in 1959.

“Kay and I have been married longer than most people have lived, and it’s time that I do some of the things that I agreed upon 70 years ago,” Inhofe said.

“The long COVID hit us a lot worse for some reason than it hit other people,” Inhofe said. “Give me six months to get back up to 100%.”





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