Craig O'Dear Announces Senatorial Exploratory Committee

Today we announce an exploratory committee to consider a campaign to represent all Missourians in the United States Senate.

Today we announce an exploratory committee to consider a campaign to represent all Missourians in the United States Senate.

This campaign would be about giving voters an alternative for a better America. Our two-party political system no longer serves the people. It delivers division and gridlock instead of practical solutions to our problems. Something has to change. Missourians, and Americans, deserve better. They deserve leaders who listen thoughtfully and act independently, instead of simply following orders from party leadership and billionaire funders. Missourians deserve leadership that engages people from all political perspectives and looks for common ground. Missouri’s representatives, like most Missourians, should be open to compromise, and should work toward reasonable solutions to our problems.

Hyper-partisanship has deprived Missouri, and America, of the leadership we deserve. The antidote to hyper-partisanship is independence. This campaign is about giving the people of Missouri an opportunity to take a stand for independence and to send a message to our elected leaders that they must stop the hyper-partisan warfare. We must put our country ahead of any political party.

I expressed these thoughts to a friend, who challenged me: If you want to serve your country, if you want to live a life that is larger than yourself, you must run. Those words had an impact. I am considering running for the United States Senate in 2018 because I want to serve my country at a time when it needs, more than anything, independent, thoughtful leadership.

Independence fits me. I was an active Republican for decades, but when the party started moving in a different direction, I stayed in my lane. I drifted away from party politics, or I should say, it drifted away from me. Loyalty to my country is more important to me than loyalty to a political party.

What is this new vision?

First, we must fix the process by which we address issues. In 2016, the two mainstream political parties delivered two candidates for president who had a combined negative 110+ point Gallup approval rating. These parties operate a House and Senate that are dysfunctional. They are controlled by billionaire funders who hide behind secrecy laws. The two parties support that secrecy because they know how Americans would react if we knew the identity of their special-interest backers and how much money they spend to buy political influence.

The parties control elections that exclude competition from candidates who exercise independent judgment and refuse to be controlled by a political party. The result is exactly what we see in business markets dominated by monopoly power—bloated companies that fail to innovate, are unresponsive to consumers, and charge more for less. Real competition among businesses is good for the customer, and real competition for the entrenched political parties will be good for the American people. Something has to change.

The parties’ recent performance on health care demonstrates the current dysfunction. While the Democrats passed the ACA, the Republicans insisted the legislation would be disastrous for America. The Republicans pledged that if they were in control of government, they would repeal the ACA and replace it with a health care plan that was better and cheaper. The Democrats insisted the program was fundamentally sound, but needed adjustments and improvements. Nine months after the 2016 election, what was painfully revealed? The Republicans had no plan to repeal the ACA and no plan to replace it with anything at all, much less something better. And the Democrats, overcome with joy at watching the Republicans flail about and achieve nothing, offered no plan of their own to make the adjustments and improvements to the ACA that even the Democrats acknowledge need to be made. This does not serve the American people.

Through it all, this reality was overlooked: the ACA is not health care; it is health insurance. To set the stage for a long term, affordable, and sustainable health care system, which we must have, this country needs health care reform. We spend twice as much per person on healthcare than in some other countries that achieve outcomes as good or better than we do. We need reform in our health care business model. The country that leads the world in technological development and innovation could achieve this if its leaders committed to work together toward that goal, without worrying about who gets the credit for the solution.

There is a growing imbalance in economic opportunity, income, and wealth in this country. We need to address this issue. To a great degree, urban areas have taken great strides, while rural areas and small towns have fallen behind. The populist movement fails to honestly address the causes of these trends; thus, is not leading us toward solutions. International trade and the global economy are not the bogey-men they are being made out to be. The trends that put our rural areas at risk are being driven by market forces and capitalism. If any country should know that free markets and capitalism offer more opportunities than challenges, it should be the United States. We must embrace the opportunities they present and find ways to bring the coastal economic momentum to Middle America. Our leaders must find ways to bring entrepreneurism to the heartland, such as giving tax incentives to investors willing to invest in distressed areas, and student loan payment deferrals for students willing to create companies instead of take jobs in the city.

We must all recognize that America is the big winner in the global economy. Nearly half of the revenue of all S&P 500 companies is generated by overseas sales. Withdrawing from trade agreements, threatening our good neighbors and best trading partners, and imposing tariffs will only hurt one of America’s greatest competitors in foreign markets—agriculture. We must be smarter.

Yes, we need immigration reform. No, we cannot accept every immigrant who wants to come to America. Yes, we must reasonably control our borders. But that does not require an expensive and impractical 2,000-mile wall along the border.  It does not require a tone of hate or mistrust directed to our neighbors. 43 percent of companies in the 2017 Fortune 500 were founded or co-founded by an immigrant or the child of an immigrant. Foreign-born entrepreneurs are important to economic prosperity in the United States.  We need a system for deciding the appropriate level of immigration, and for identifying who we will welcome into our country. And we need a resolution on how we handle immigrants who are already here, without resorting to mass deportations.

Environmental protections are important. Americans must embrace rather than shun the opportunities of new energy sources and new, more environmentally-aware, ways of doing things. We should not celebrate the dismantling of environmental protections. Most Americans want to protect the environment for their children and grandchildren and beyond. Environmental protection is classic populism, and the notion that environmental protection is an enemy of business is a patently false notion. Business, jobs, prosperity, and growth can all be achieved in the furtherance of environmental protection. This is a huge American opportunity—not a threat. We must embrace change, not deny it. A government focused on protecting its citizens must search for and find business-focused ways to protect the environment. America must reclaim its rightful place as a world leader on this issue.

Our country is blessed with profound natural resources and advantages. Our people, who are innovative, entrepreneurial, generous, and hardworking, have created a country that is an agricultural, manufacturing and high tech wonder of the world. But in recent decades, our government has failed to live up to this standard. America can and must do better, but it can only accomplish that if it escapes control by the failing two-party system and recaptures the independent thought, compromise and common-sense leadership of our Founding Fathers. The hyper-partisan feud between the Democrats and the Republicans is ruining our country. Both sides are to blame, and the problem simply cannot be fixed by a Republican or a Democrat, who will owe allegiance to a party, not a nation. Join me in Declaring your Independence. Join our campaign.

Craig O'Dear for U.S. Senate