OKLAHOMA CITY — Josh Brecheen said he is a man fueled by his Christian faith and the belief that the United States needs to start living within its fiscal means.
“I absolutely believe that we have to have moral excellence in this nation, biblical virtue,” he said.
The 43-year-old defines “biblical virtue” as those values contained in The Bible.
It was only after “a lot of prayer” and the encouragement of his wife of 13 years that the father of four decided to seek the Republican nomination for Oklahoma’s Second Congressional district.
Brecheen faces an Aug. 23 runoff in hopes of representing a 28-county area that includes most of eastern Oklahoma.
Brecheen said when incumbent Markwayne Mullin announced he wasn’t seeking another term, he believed that he was supposed to do something but questioned whether he would be able to continue to prioritize his wife and young family while serving in Washington D.C. Ultimately, he said he decided that he owed it to his children to help secure their future and to change the trajectory of the quickly rising national debt - now at more than $30 trillion - that he said is “selling our children into fiscal bondage.”
“I’m one of those people who believes that we will turn America around by both the family unit, a great awakening and by sending quality people to Washington D.C.,” Brecheen said.
He also said he believes that the inflation currently squeezing Oklahoma families is “solely the derivative of runaway federal spending,” and that he will not vote for any more federal debt increases.
In his first year of Congress, Brecheen said he would work to balance the budget, reduce the size and scope of government and put term limits in place.
Brecheen said his fiscal beliefs were firmly entrenched while working for the late U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn as part of his field staff. Coburn instructed him to visit countless federal agencies and businesses to figure out what the government was getting right and wrong.
Each week for six years, Brecheen said he’d spend nearly an entire day writing up field reports for his boss on what the government was doing right and wrong regarding regulatory oversight or identifying waste.
“Anybody can talk a good game about waste, fraud and abuse, but I know the difference between talking a good game and actually being willing to put amendments on bills and say this is the wrong course and to be able to call your own party on it,” Brecheen said.
He later went on to serve eight years in the Oklahoma Legislature before self-limiting himself to two terms and heading home to family and a ranch in the Amish community of Olney, in rural Coal County.
By the time Brecheen left the Oklahoma Legislature, the Oklahoma Constitution Conservative Index ranked him as having the third most conservative lifetime voting record, he said.
“The truth is my voting record says I’m the conservative in this race,” he said. “And for a Republican primary, it matters. Voting records matter.”
That voting record has sometimes placed Brecheen at odds with Republican party leadership, said his friend and former boss, Curt Price, of Keefeton.
While serving as a state senator, Brecheen refused to vote for a tax increase that Republican leadership wanted, Price said, and was stripped of his committee chairmanship.
“He is a man of principle,” Price said. “If he believes that this is the right side, prayerfully — because he will always be praying about it — he will stand on it and never give in.”
Price said he first met Brecheen nearly 20 years ago when he showed up at Price’s Muskogee office, asking to work for Coburn’s first U.S. Senate campaign.
Price said wanted Breechen’s help, but Coburn’s campaign couldn’t afford to pay him. Brecheen believed so much in Coburn’s vision that he said he’d work for free on the campaign.
Price said he has worked for two U.S. senators and a congressman, and he’s never seen anyone more prepared to go to Washington, D.C., than Brecheen.
“I’m going to do everything I can to help him get elected because of the person that he is, because his character is just unbelievably good,” Price said.
Marty Quinn, of Claremore, who has known Brecheen for at least 12 years, said Brecheen is not motivated by “worldly possessions” or ambition.
He said Brecheen is “godly” and a man of faith. When someone walks into Quinn’s office, they might see a closed Bible on his desk. When they walk into Brecheen’s office, his Bible is open.
“The reality is he’s a man of truth,” Quinn said. “If he tells you something, then it’s going to be that way today. It’ll be that way tomorrow. He’s not going to lie to you. He’s not going to cheat. He’s not going to steal. He’s going to be a man of integrity, a man of character.”
Brecheen said he also has experience running a small business.
As the managing partner of a small construction company, Brecheen said he spent two years in a bulldozer, pushing dirt, a year in an excavator and two years driving a semi-truck.
“I know how to work, and I’ve not always had a government paycheck, and that context matters,” Brecheen said. “Because when you really know how hard it is to make a living in the free market, it gives you context. It’s necessary when you go up there to represent your constituency.”
He’s also a staunch supporter of term limits. He said he plans to serve no more than eight years in the U.S. House.
Brecheen, who is Choctaw citizen, said he also believes Congress should step in and “fix” the U.S. Supreme Court’s McGirt ruling that found that large swaths of eastern Oklahoma remain reservation land. With no action, Brecheen said there will be 20 or 30 years of litigation on the issue.
“The scales of justice need to be blind,” Brecheen said. “When a judge is deciding on a case, he does not need to see ethnicity. He needs to know right and wrong. Congress has to fix this.”
He also said everyone should have the same protection under the law, yet in Atoka, for example, when state law enforcement pulls someone over for driving 11 to 15 mph over the speed limit, those with a tribal affiliation receive a $95 ticket. If someone is pulled over for the same offense with no tribal affiliation, they will receive a $265 ticket, he said.
“The scales of justice are not blind, and that’s not fair,” Brecheen said. “So regardless of where you live, I don’t care where it is, we have to have equal justice under the law.”
He also said he does not believe that “foreign reservation status is in the best interest of Oklahoma.’”
“If you look at reservations across the nation, they’re loaded with poverty and suicide rates,” Brecheen said. “And, I don’t think that’s what’s in the best interest of tribal members.”
Brecheen also said he’s never taken any money from the tribes.
“Whether by perception or reality, I think there have been too many people in Oklahoma politics that have been owned, and I don’t want to be one of those,” he said. “I believe the person who’s elected to Congress on this issue has to do the right things for the right reasons, not because of campaign considerations.”
Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI's newspapers and websites. Reach her at email@example.com.