One in a series featuring candidates who are competing during the 2018 election cycle. This article focuses on three candidates who hope to represent Oklahoma’s 2nd Congressional District — Democrat Jason Nichols, Libertarian Richard Castaldo, and Independent John Foreman. The incumbent, Republican Markwayne Mullin, chose not to participate. The general election will be Nov. 6. 

1 What do you consider to be the most important issue that affects your constituents today?

Castaldo: The inherent rights of every individual regardless of religion, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender are being stripped away by an intrusive and authoritarian government. I am a strict constitutionalist that believes the Constitution is meant to restrict the federal government, not the individual. One person in OK-2 may be concerned about their Second Amendment while another might be concerned about NSA spying, but regardless of what matters to you, I am the best candidate to protect all your rights, to increase equal economic opportunity, and to be an independent voice of reason in Washington, D.C.

Foreman: To narrow issues down to one would be a disservice to other issues. I have heard concerns about education, Social Security, wage growth (or stagnation), Veteran Affairs and health care cost. I do think that we can resolve many of these issues if we can shake Congress up. If I were to have to narrow the issues down to just one cause, I would say that we have a debt/budget problem. If one were to narrow most of the issues plaguing our nation today, most would stem from this issue.

Nichols: I believe health care has to be at the top of the list of the most pressing issues here in eastern Oklahoma. This has been a topic of concern in every town hall I’ve held across the district and in the thousands of discussions I’ve had with voters in the past year and a half. People are struggling to pay the rising costs associated with their medical care. They are worried about whether they’ll have insurance coverage in the future. I meet folks too often who are having difficulties, still, with the VA. I meet others who lose sleep at night over whether they, or perhaps one of their loved ones, can afford both their prescription medications and their monthly bills. I would challenge anyone who feels health care isn’t a pressing issue to read the recent Washington Post report that labeled Stilwell as the “early death capital” of the country. That’s unacceptable and we must address the health concerns of fellow Oklahomans.

2 What specifically would you do to address that issue for the benefit of your constituents?

Foreman: I would work with both sides of the House to develop a balanced budget with a surplus and hopefully be able to have a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This amendment would force Congress to balance the budget annually and to pay down our national debt.  We have had a balanced budget in the past with a surplus and we need to get back to that kind of achievement.  Without a balanced budget, departments such as National Defense, Education, Veteran Affairs and Social Security are unable to budget to their needs.

Nichols: In the short term, we need to continue to provide adequate funding for the programs that provide rural areas and low-income populations the ability to maintain their access to health care. But we also must institute something along the lines of a public option, so that there is an affordable alternative for everyone to have access to care.

Castaldo: I will keep Congress and the White House accountable to the Constitution and the people of OK-2. We must restore individual liberty. It’s not an issue the Democrats or Republican politicians like to talk about because the more rights you have the less power they have. That’s my goal as your Libertarian candidate. One way I would specifically address this is by leading the charge for congressional term limits. I often hear that’s what elections are for, but today’s political machine for incumbents is geared to rig elections with millions of dollars and media spotlight. Term limits are right.

3 How do you and your opponents differ on the issues you believe are important in this election?

Nichols: Mr. Mullin’s emphasis seems to have shifted from public service to climbing through the ranks of his party and appeasing corporate interests. I think that has left us with a representative in name only, which has resulted in the residents of eastern Oklahoma feeling ignored. We need a representative who will put people ahead of politics. Mr. Castaldo insists that his opponents will be “owned by” their political parties and lobbyists. It’s obvious Mr. Castaldo obviously doesn’t know me or the way I’ve conducted my campaign. I’m not beholden to anyone except the people of eastern Oklahoma.

Castaldo: My opponents will not pledge to fully legalize cannabis, to restore Second Amendment rights, to end global interventionism, to abolish property taxes, or to allow states the authority to decide on abortion regardless of the Supreme Court’s decisions. I have and I will keep those promises. Jason Nichols and Congressman Mullin both support American interventionism. I do not, and I am already against the next war. Mullin says we should defund Planned Parenthood yet continues to vote for funding. Jason is pro-abortion and will not allow Oklahoma our constitutional authority to make our own laws regarding abortion and women’s health care.

Foreman: Being an Independent, I differ from my opponents in my approach to government. I am not part of the party system and, as such, I am not bound by the national agendas. I instead look for solutions from a nonpartisan approach. While typically my opponents would side with their respective parties and national agenda, my focus is on the agenda of the people of Oklahoma and whichever side can best help to achieve what Oklahoma needs.

4 On what important issues do you and your opponents share a common perspective?

Castaldo: I agree with Congressman Mullin that we should have congressional term limits, though I will not recant my pledge. I also agree that we should cut spending and pass a balanced budget amendment. I agree with Jason Nichols that we need to keep our promises to seniors and veterans, including Social Security and health care. We disagree on how best to do that. I also agree with Jason that integrity matters in public service, and I respect his character. Though we disagree ideologically, I can find common sense agreement with both opponents. I can be a bridge to get things done.

Foreman: I am an Independent and moderate. I would assume I would share some common perspectives with all. I would assume that I would share the desire for a balanced budget, lower national debt and reduction in small or independent business taxes on the right and the need for health care, elder care and environment on the left. We need both sides working together to overcome the national debt that now exceeds $20 trillion, up $17 trillion in the last 17 years.

Nichols: I once heard Mr. Mullin say during a town hall that he believes in finding a way to allow undocumented immigrants to stay in our country if they meet certain criteria. I believe we need to legislatively define the process and criteria to set out how that happens. I agree with Mr. Castaldo that we must protect Native American lands from federal interference. As a Cherokee Nation citizen, protecting tribal sovereignty will be a cornerstone of my legislative agenda. Mr. Foreman has said the two major political parties in this country are working hard to oppose the other rather than working for the people. I’ve said from Day One that the political culture in Washington has devolved to the point where even the smallest issues seem to be catalysts for controversy, or an excuse to argue with someone because he or she happens to belong to a different political party. We have to move past that.

5 Please describe a time when you agreed with the position held by the opposite party on an important issue?

Foreman: During the late 1990s and early 2000s, the two parties worked together to form a balanced budget. It was at this time I had agreed with them the most. Our national debt was less than $5 trillion and a relatively small budget and a surplus. I feel at that time Congress was working toward the benefit of the people.

Nichols: I agree with the concept put forward by President Trump’s administration that the nation needs a robust infrastructure program. Eastern Oklahoma is in desperate need of resources to maintain and improve our roads, bridges, school facilities and communication systems. However, President Trump’s plan would funnel those resources away from areas like eastern Oklahoma, and I would insist that rural projects be included in any infrastructure proposal put forward.

Castaldo: As a Libertarian I don’t follow the rules of left versus right. I believe in individual liberty versus authoritarian big-government. Due to this philosophy I share many ideas on criminal justice reform with the Democrats and principles of fiscal responsibility with Republicans. Unfortunately, the Democrats have turned to socialism and the Republicans are no longer conservatives most of the time. If you feel left behind by your political affiliation you should check out the Oklahoma Libertarian Party at www.oklp.org.

— D.E. Smoot

KEY DATES

Deadline to request absentee ballot — 5 p.m. Oct. 31.

Early voting — Nov. 1, 8  a.m.-6 p.m.; Friday, Nov. 2, 8  a.m.-6 p.m.; Saturday, Nov. 3, 9 a.m.-2 p.m.

MEET RICHARD CASTALDO

AGE: 36.

HOMETOWN: Grove. 

OCCUPATION: Pastor.

FAMILY: Wife, Kathy Castaldo, sons Elisha, 6, and Isaiah, 4.

EDUCATION: Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Business Administration Bachelor of Science.

HOBBIES: Writing, baseball, movies and books.

WEBSITE / FACEBOOK PAGE: castaldoforcongress.info / facebook.com/castaldoforcongress

MEET JOHN FOREMAN

AGE: 53. 

HOMETOWN: Keys.

OCCUPATION: Accounting assistant.

FAMILY: Divorced. Four grown children and three grandchildren.

EDUCATION: East Central High School, Tulsa; attended Baptist Bible College; Ivy Tech Community College; Connors State College.

HOBBIES: Reading, model railroad, history.

WEBSITE / FACEBOOK PAGE: www.foreman4congress.com / foremanforcongress

MEET JASON NICHOLS

AGE: 43. 

HOMETOWN: Tahlequah. 

OCCUPATION: Political science instructor, Northeastern State University at Tahlequah; mayor of Tahlequah. 

FAMILY: Wife, Jennifer; daughters Cara Lynn and Gemma; grandson, Michael. 

EDUCATION: Tahlequah High School graduate; Northeastern State University at Tahlequah, bachelor’s and master’s degrees. 

HOBBIES: Family, Dallas Cowboys football, movies and music, technology. 

WEBSITE / FACEBOOK PAGE: www.nichols4congress.com / www.facebook.com/nichols4congress.

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