Edit Note: This is the second in a series of interviews with candidates for Oklahoma’s First Congressional District now held by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R) who is appointed by President Donald J. Trump to head the National Air and Space Administration (NASA) pending confirmation
Tim Harris started in the Tulsa District Attorney’s (DA) office right out of law school, eventually working his way up to First Assistant. He served on the first specialized prosecution team fighting child abuse in 1988 and served as the District Attorney’s first Director of Crimes Against Children. Harris was elected DA in 1998, and was the longest serving District Attorney in Tulsa County history.
Question: Why, after such a long distinguished career as Tulsa County District Attorney, would you want to run for Congress?
Harris: Public service is in my DNA. After being in the DA’s office for 28 years, 12 years as an assistant and 16 as District Attorney, I felt a nudge that it was time to move on. At the time that I left, I really wasn’t sure what the future held. I was then invited to return to Oral Roberts University (ORU), my legal education Alma mater, to teach in the prelaw program. I’ve also taught in the MBA program at Oklahoma Wesleyan University a course called “The American Framework for Free Enterprise.”
It appears the groundwork was being laid for me to run for the First District Congressional seat and it culminated in the opportunity to teach Constitutional Law last semester at ORU.
For those that have never been in public service, it’s hard to explain but serving the public and being a voice for our Constitutional Rights is something that is down deep in your soul. It is a drive you must have in your heart to make a difference. A difference that upholds the rights of people and empowers them to seek after the American dream.
I am not going to Washington D.C. to be something; I am going there to get something done for the people.
Question: What is it that you plan to do for Tulsa in Washington?
Harris: Quoting one of my heroes, Justice Antonin Scalia, “The Rule of Law is the cornerstone of Democracy”. My professional legal career has been devoted to supporting the Rule of Law.
Honestly, that is one thing that differentiates me from the other candidates. I have fought to uphold laws and had to determine their Constitutionality my entire legal career. While fighting to protect our Constitutional Rights, I have seen our adherence to the Rule of Law under attack and ignored in our society. The Rule of Law is the documented essence of values and principles of any society. The law reflects those values and principles and yet I see an abandonment of those shared beliefs. Reestablishing adherence to the Rule of Law affects all of society, religion, economy and all of our freedoms and liberties. I will be fighting for the essence of what makes us free people. Less government intrusion into our lives while securing our safety and more free enterprise is what the founding fathers believed was the foundation of a free America. That is what I will concentrate on when I arrive in Washington.
Question: What will be the most pressing priority for you in Congress?
Harris: Securing the people’s safety and security is one thing that I believe we must do to allow free enterprise to prosper us all by competition in the marketplace with less government regulation.
By regulation, we have established a fourth arm of government with rule-making power unrestrained by elections or, in many cases, proper oversight or legislative control. Congress has abdicated its responsibility to many Federal agencies. It now feels as if the tail is wagging the dog, threatening the separation of powers outlined in the Constitution. With no checks or balances in place to control the Federal agencies, it’s no wonder we have a $20 Trillion debt and diminished freedoms.
Bernie Sanders has all the millennials high-fiving themselves over free college, but the question they never ask is who will pay for that? As Margaret Thatcher famously said, “The only problem with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”
In a real-time example, Venezuela is a current example of the failure of socialism. Inflation today is over 500 percent, wages are falling and the International Monetary Fund projects Venezuela inflation will reach 2,300 percent in 2018. A review of history has shown socialism has failed repeatedly yet progressives continually dress it up as something new and improved that we as Americans need to adopt. We must never leave our free enterprise roots that make us the economic envy of the rest of the world.
Question: As DA, you have been the boss of the office – an administrative role. In Congress you will have to work with 435 Type-A personalities who may not agree on the time of day in the best of days. Will you flourish in a legislative role?
Harris: I love the courtroom and fighting for people’s Constitutional Rights in front of a jury of 12 of your peers, but we filed about 6,000 felonies, an equal number of misdemeanors and 1,700 juvenile cases both deprived and delinquency per year. We took to the courtroom just over 100 felony cases a year that were tried to a jury, so what happened to the others? I say that to lay the foundation for this: I appreciate statesmanship and I know how to negotiate. I negotiated many more cases than I ever tried. Knowing how to negotiate with the other side to accomplish good-for-all is a very important skillset that I will use to serve the people of the First District in Washington.
With every criminal case, when you are trying to deliver true justice to the community; you have the victim’s definition of justice, the defendant’s definition of justice, the community’s definition of justice, with adherence to what they demand for public safety and the law enforcement agency that delivered you the case with a definition of what justice should be on its investigated facts. At a minimum, you must resolve four different perspectives.
This is similar to what occurs in Congress on each piece of legislation. They juggle a lot of balls to find what will serve the people most effectively and efficiently. Negotiation is not a dirty word. Always stand by your principles, but be willing to negotiate your preferences. That is the attitude that will serve the people we work for. Therefore, the training I have had in 28 years of problem solving, decision making and fighting to protect people’s rights, with 16 years exercising leadership in an organization that answers to the people, living under a state budget where we were forced to raise approximately $4 million yearly just to pay salaries and benefits, and living within our means without allegations of fraud or scandal creates my foundation for success in Congress like none of the other announced candidates.
Question: After your long service, you know that half the people in each case may love you and half are likely to hate you so with momentum both ways, how will that work for you in this race?
Harris: I rely on my faith in Jesus Christ. I just finished the 10-month Colson Fellowship by studying with Chuck Colson’s Center for Christian Worldview. Our course of study looks at how we can apply Biblical worldview in the marketplace. It is a foundation for statesmanship I will follow as I seek to serve the people I represent.
As a DA, I never looked or cared in which political party someone was registered. Now I think America has morphed to a point at which party affiliation seems more important than supporting the nation’s interests. I’m a conservative Republican, but I am an American Oklahoman first and I will never step away from my principles, but I will be willing to negotiate my preferences. I can and will work with anyone who puts the nations interests first. The fact that there is a Liberal Democrat sitting across the aisle does not make them my enemy. I can build coalitions through treating all people with respect and dignity. This approach to dealing with all human beings is known as the “Imago Dei”, all people representing the image of God. Dialogue and debate of ideas and issues in the marketplace is what makes America the envy of the rest of the world. We must re-establish the process that gets things done for the people.
From the Porter Peach Festival to Bartlesville all the way to Copan near the Kansas border, people of the First District are tired of politics as usual. They are sick of self-serving, typical politicians and they understand that Tim Harris has never been a typical politician nor will I ever be. Power elitists and special interests have never been able to buy my influence or allegiance.
People want real representation – not wealth, attention or power seekers. I don’t need just any job, but I have a burning heartfelt desire to serve the people in this congressional job. I am going to Congress to be the voice for the people of the First District and I think they trust the fact I have been a fighter for them for over 28 years. I have always fought for people’s rights and that is what I want to do again for the First District of Oklahoma.
Question: In Oklahoma’s Conservative history, Senator Coburn fought waste and voted no on almost anything that cost money. Senator Inhofe also fights waste, but, if any dollar comes out of Oklahoma, he wants that dollar to return in some form. Which kind of Conservative are you?
Harris: Both Senators seek to improve the lives of Oklahomans using different and distinct approaches. Both goals are important and need to be balanced. I am a conservative that speaks for the people I represent and I will employ a balancing approach to achieve positive results. I will learn from their distinct leadership styles as I remain answerable to the people who hopefully will choose to elect me as their spokesman in Washington.
Question: On what committees in Congress do you hope to serve?
Harris: The House Judiciary Committee, which has been called the lawyer for the House of Representatives because of its jurisdiction over matters relating to the administration of justice in federal courts, administrative bodies, and law enforcement agencies.
I have a keen interest in criminal justice reform at all levels of government. Oklahoma is number one in the number of women we incarcerate and number three in the number of men. We are choking on ideas about criminal justice that do not rehabilitate the perpetrators, help victims or serve the community.
I believe my 28 years of experience as a district attorney can help to advance reform and solve some real and pressing issues. Accountability under the law without breaking the taxpayer’s backs with prison costs is a model we must explore. We must also find a way to welcome people back into our communities after incarceration with some grace and good will. We all benefit if they can become productive, successful members of our community and, thereby, reduce the number of our people engaged in criminal activity as their way of making a living.