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Okla. Sen.: Youth Asset In U.S. Campaign

This story was written by Spencer Gainey, Oklahoma Daily
Oklahoma Sen. Andrew Rice said his youth and short time in the legislature are assets to his United States Senate campaign during a Young Democrats political rally Monday at the University of Oklahoma.

Rice is a young state senator with one legislative session of political experience under his belt. He is running against Republican incumbent Sen. Jim Inhofe, who is widely known for his opposition to global warming.

The Young Democrats hosted the event so Rice could get to know the club and vice versa.

"We did this to raise awareness of Andrew Rice; he is going to need to pull in a lot of college students to help out," said Andrea Chrisman, OU Young Democrats president and international and area studies and Spanish senior.

Chrisman said she wanted students at OU to get involved with this race because the issues affect young people.

"He is a young Democrat himself," Chrisman said. "He is a voice for us."

About 75 people showed up at Dale Hall to hear Rice speak.

Before Rice spoke, campaign workers mingled with the crowd and signed people up to volunteer.

"Young people are going to be the life blood of the campaign," said campaign organizer Sarah Love.

She said that one advantage of having young people in college work on the race is that they can work to get the message out in Norman, Okla., and their hometowns.

"They can go back to their communities and spread the word," she said.

Rice spoke to the audience about why he is running and outlined some of the issues that are important to him. He also addressed his age and some negative images he said people are trying to link to his campaign.

"People are going to say Jim Inhofe is a powerful senator ... that Oklahoma is not as easy in presidential elections," Rice said.

Rice also touched on a few things he thought were special about the race.

"There is a unique election year in Oklahoma," Rice said. "[President George] Bush has a 36-percent approval rating, which is very low in Oklahoma. There is a big opportunity. You can be part of something historic."

Inhofe is widely known as a skeptic of global warming, a fact highlighted when Al Gore testified before the Senate's Environmental and Public Works committee that Inhofe formerly chaired. Inhofe grilled Gore on the validity of the science behind global warming, at times talking over Gore.

Rice said he has talked to farmers in rural areas of the state and said they notice something is going on with climate change.

"We had four years of drought followed by horrible flooding. Saying global warming isn't a problem doesn't help," Rice said.

Rice's lack of political experience is something the state senator downplays.

"I think that youth and the short time I've been through Legislature is a good asset," he said.

Rice was elected to the state Senate in 2006 in an urban Oklahoma City district with more registered Democrats than Republicans, and has one legislative session of political experience under his belt.

In the time of his first session, he had nine bills passed into law.

Rice said unlike Jim Inhofe, he would not be beholden to special interest groups. However, he has accepted campaign contributions from political action committees, also known as PACs.

During his campaign for state Senate last year, Rice accepted the maximum contribution of $5,000 from Chesapeake Energy, and $3,000 from the Oklahoma Independent Petroleum Association.

Rice noted that taking money from PACs and being beholden to them are two different things.

Keith Gaddie, OU political science professor, said in an editorial featured in the Oklahoma Gazette about the Senate race that the odds favor Inhofe.

"Rce is married, urban, a theology student and has a sparse legislative record. He is also more liberal than most Oklahoma legislators, and confronts the reality that Oklahoma last elected a liberal to the U.S. Senate in the '60s," Gaddie wrote.

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