TULSA –In an interview-style video led by former Tulsa-based radio personality Eddie Huff, current Oklahoma U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin announced he would seek re-election next year.
The video posted Tuesday featured Mullin and his wife Christie, who both said that the final decision to seek another term was a recent one that was solidified for them through prayer.
"Going through the process, Christie and I we were both sitting there in our devotion one morning, and literally at the same time we looked at each other and said 'we're running again,'" Mullin said in the video.
The businessman turned Republican politician was first elected to Congress to represent Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District in 2012, a territory that spans 26 counties in eastern Oklahoma.
Mullin, a member of the Republican Whip Team currently serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and sits on three subcommittees – Energy, Health, and Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection.*
During his initial 2012 campaign and repeatedly since, Mullin had pledged to serve no more than three terms in Congress, a total of six years, a promise echoed by fellow Republican and Oklahoma's 1st District Congressman Jim Bridenstine.
However, Mullin's plans for a fourth term became the source of heavy speculation during his re-election run in 2016 when the congressman refused to announce or disavow plans for a fourth term officially.
The possibility of Mullin seeking another run at the House was back in the spotlight in early spring following a Statement of Candidacy filed on March 2, 2017, with the Federal Election Commission. At that time, Mullin and members of his office would only say that the filing did not expressly confirm a 2018 candidacy.
In contrast, Congressman Bridenstine said he would keep to his three-term pledge and would not seek re-election.
Mullin acknowledged in Tuesday's video that his seeking a fourth term would cause upset, but explained the decision to go back on his previous pledge was partly rooted in a better understanding of the political process in Congress.
“We understand that people are going to be upset, and we get that. We understand it. I’m not hiding from that because we did say we’re going to serve six years, and it was out of true concerns," said Mullin.
"One, we didn't understand politics. If people remember the first time I ever went to a political event was when I stood up and said that I'm running for Congress. I wasn't political. I was busy building our businesses," Mullin continued.
The Mullins also stressed that the wellbeing of their family was also a high priority, and as they have continued to thrive the decision for Mullin to seek re-election was one the whole family supported.
Mullin also said he believed he could accomplish more under President Donald Trump's administration for Oklahomans.
"So we go back to the question 'can we make a difference?' and I've seen such a turn around with the new administration, with President Trump, that when we came to the conclusion, the answer was 'yes' we can make a difference," said Mullin.
Recent Town Hall Controversies
From March 31 through April 13, Mullin embarked on a tour to meet with constituents in a series of town hall meetings at all 26 counties comprising Oklahoma's 2nd District.
The Republican congressman was met with mixed reactions during his visits, with a few notable incidents garnering deeply negative reactions.
During one of his first town hall meetings in Pryor on March 31, Leslie Moyer of Cherokee County was among attendees holding two pieces of postcard-sized construction paper - one green to signify agreement with a talking point and one red, to signify disagreement.
The cards were an initiative of Indivisible Oklahoma, a non-partisan organization formed following the 2016 election.
When Moyer displayed a red card during a speaking point concerning the Environmental Protection Agency, Mullin interrupted his address to tell Moyer that signs were not allowed.
Moyer objected saying she was not holding a sign just "a piece of paper" and was soon was approached by police officers serving as security at the meeting. She was asked to relinquish the papers and to step outside, but Moyer remained seated, stating calmly that she would have to be physically removed.
Mullin halted her removal, explaining that to do so “would be playing right into their hands,” and adding later “All they’re wanting to do is get you in trouble and blast it all over the internet, and I don’t want to do that.”
As predicted, the video of the exchange in Pryor quickly went viral, garnering millions of views in less than a week and drawing extensive criticisms and questions on how open and inclusive the meetings truly were for constituents not aligned with the congressman’s vision for, and representation of, District 2 Oklahoma.
Following the prickly exchange in Pryor, Mullin was then captured on video at the Jay town hall for Delaware County on April 10 stating taxpayers did not pay his salary.
“You said you pay for me to do this? That's bullcrap," Mullin said at the Jay event. "I pay for myself. I paid enough taxes before I got here and continue to through my company to pay my own salary. This is a service. No one here pays me to go."
Mullin's statement was met with immediate backlash at the Jay meeting, which the congressman responded to by continuing “I’m just saying this is a service for me, not a career, and I thank God this is not how I make my living.”
Mullin is the owner of several Oklahoma-based businesses – Mullin Plumbing, Mullin Properties, Mullin Farms, and Mullin Services.
According to the Congressional Research Service, the salary of a U.S. representative is $174,000 per year, and benefits include allowances, cost-of-living adjustments, enrollment in a pension, health benefits, personnel, mail and office expenses, and a travel allowance.**
Adding to the controversy surrounding Mullin's spring town hall tour was the cancellation of his scheduled visit to Tahlequah for Cherokee County April 11 due to what he said was "safety concerns," in a tweet made the same day.
Later that evening, Mullin issued a statement to several media outlets saying his group was unable to reach an agreement with the Tahlequah venue "...using our protocols that guaranteed the safety of everyone, so I chose to cancel the town hall after much consideration."
*Biography|U.S. House of Representatives https://mullin.house.gov/biography/. Accessed July 5, 2017.
**Brudnick, Ida A. (January 4, 2012). "Congressional Salaries and Allowances" (PDF). Retrieved July 5, 2017.
Dorothy Ballard is the managing news editor of the Miami News-Record. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow her on Twitter @dm_ballard.