The Importance of Keeping Ernest

Three days after he walked HUMAN EVENTS through promising polls on a Senate race and said he and wife Judy were “proceeding prayerfully” toward a bid to succeed retiring Sen. Don Nickles (R-Okla.), Rep. Ernest Istook left fellow Sooner State GOPers speechless by announcing he would stay in the House after all.

Citing the desire “to keep benefits for our state,” six-termer Istook, chairman of the Treasury Subcommittee on Appropriations, told us that he also believed he could have kept the open Senate seat in GOP hands. However, stalwart conservative Istook added that he appreciated “those who have reminded me how important my current position in the House is” and his hope that with nine months before the filing deadline, “a strong candidate might emerge who could build the necessary support among Oklahoma’s voters.”

The dean of Oklahoma’s U.S. House delegation was making a not-so-veiled reference to the Republican who had already gotten the blessings of Nickles and fellow Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe: Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys, whom a Wilson poll showed losing to Istook by a margin of 53% to 32% in his home city and by 53% to 23% in the rest of central Oklahoma. A just-completed poll by KTOK-Radio (Oklahoma City) showed that 29% of Republicans favor Humphreys for the Senate and 47% prefer another Republican.

Days before Istook made his exit announcement, Inhofe interrupted a pleasure trip to call HUMAN EVENTS and explain he was backing Humphreys because “Democrats will make the case that Ernest is giving up seniority and leverage for Oklahoma.” Asked if Humphreys’ endorsement from the two senators convinced him not to make the race, Istook replied: “Nobody has the leverage to pressure me.” That both Republican senators would immediately prefer another candidate to Rep. Istook revealed the tensions within the Sooner State GOP and heightened worries that the eventual Republican nominee might well lose to the certain Democratic nominee, two-term Rep. Brad Carson, who formally declared for the Senate today.