By Michelle Charles
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Rep. Frank Lucas stopped in Stillwater on Wednesday to announce he’s seeking re-election in Oklahoma’s 3rd Congressional District.
Lucas is an Oklahoma State University graduate who holds a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics. He and his wife operate a ranch in rural Roger Mills County.
He was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in a 1994 special election.
The congressman, who chairs the House Committee on Agriculture, said he takes his commitment to Oklahoma and its residents seriously.
“I may not always be a member of Congress but I’ll always be a resident of the 3rd district and I’ll always be a farmer,” he said.
He has said passing a new farm bill for 2014 is one of his proudest accomplishments.
Lucas schedules about 50 town hall meetings a year throughout his district, which covers 32 counties and over 34,000 square miles in western and north central Oklahoma.
Anyone wanting to represent the 3rd District needs to be prepared to drive from the Red River to New Mexico to the northeast corner of the state, he said.
Much of the territory Lucas covers is rural. Stillwater and Enid are the two largest cities in his district.
He said in spite of the distance separating his constituents they’re more alike than they are different and most are pretty economically and socially conservative.
“I can’t represent every point of view because I only have one vote but I try to achieve consensus,” he said.
Some issues that consistently come up in his town halls are the Affordable Care Act, gun control and the impact of Oklahoma’s prolonged drought.
Lucas said changes to Medicare and Medicaid expansion as a result of the ACA or “Obamacare” are stressing the system and causing uncertainty for both recipients and providers.
He said he’s bothered by what he sees as the president’s resistance to changes in the law.
Weather is something that worries his rural constituents because it affects their crops, their cattle herds and potentially threatens their water supplies, particularly in the western portion of the state where the drought is most severe.
Lack of water could also put a damper on the current oil and gas boom, which needs water for hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.
He said he doesn’t know if fracking and injection wells are playing a role in the increased number of earthquakes Oklahoma is experiencing and he’d prefer to let the U.S. Geologic Survey and other experts decide that.
He doesn’t see the need for further regulation of oil and gas drilling because he’s comfortable with the job the Oklahoma Corporation Commission is doing.
He said President Obama’s recent decision to allow more review time before extending the Keystone XL pipeline from Cushing to the gulf coast is an attempt to appease a portion of the president’s base that’s opposed to fossil fuels.
Stopping the Keystone doesn’t just stop the delivery of Canadian oil, it stops the flow of oil from the Dakotas and delays a project that would stimulate the economy, he said.
The Canadians have been very patient with the U.S. and shown commitment to supporting North America, he said. But if their patience runs out, the pipeline could just as easily go to Vancouver and fill tankers bound for China.
Lucas said he’s comfortable with the technology and the pipeline industry’s ability to handle maintenance issues and challenges as demonstrated in Alaska.
Fossil fuels will continue to be an important back up even if we do transition to future technology and other sources, he said.