After the Republican committee selects its candidate, all eyes will turn to the June 4th special election.
However, it may be that the candidate with the most impressive resume wasn’t nominated at the meeting: Senator Wayne Wallingford, who retired as a Lt. Colonel in the Air Force.
We sat down with Senator Wallingford in his office in Jefferson City and learned more about the candidate the 8th may have missed.
TMT: You were a little slower to enter the race than some of the other candidates; can you explain your thought process on that?
Wallingford: Well, to put it in an Air Force term, it wasn’t even on my radar screen. I think it took everybody by surprise when [Congresswoman] Jo Ann Emerson announced her new position. I’d just been elected to the senate and already h
ad my committees. You know, I work for my constituents. I’m not a politician looking for his next step on the ladder. They just elected me to the senate and then they came to me and said “you have a unique, broad background with a lot of experience that doesn’t walk in the door every day.” And they wanted me to consider running for that position, and enough people said that, it made me think
When I say, “I’ll consider it,” it means deep prayer for me, my wife as well, consulting her and praying with her. That’s why I never “officially” put out a statement that I was running. I knew that hurt me as a politician. Not only did I not put out a news release that I was running, I didn’t call a single one of the 86. I’d consider it.
Wallingford: I love the Senate. That was one of the things I decided when I withdrew my name. I felt I could do a lot more for the people of Missouri at the state senate than I could possibly do for them as a U.S. Representative in Washington D.C.
TMT: When Missouri Right To Life got involved, they were very critical of some candidates. But you’re a candidate they raved about, can you tell us about your relationship with the Missouri Right to Life?
Wallingford: Our relationship is very good. Because there is one thing we have to do up here by the Constitution and that is balance the budget. The other thing is we take an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution and the Missouri Constitution. And in the Constitution it says “right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.” Medically speaking, research shows life begins at conception. There’s no other research that says that is wrong. So I’m defending life according to the constitution. Now we know the court has a different reading on that but yet, I’m very adamant about protecting right to life issues. We had an economic development issue come before us when I was in the house, with MOSIRA [Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act]. There was some wording there that was a little bit
loose; I came up with an amendment to strengthen the language. The Speaker asked for any amendments to come on the floor, and we had it in committee. So I voted against it in committee, which was a hard vote, because I’m for economic development.
TMT: Yours was a senate race where the campaign actually mattered, as opposed to some races where the campaign is irrelevant.
Wallingford: Yes, it mattered very much. I had about $4,000 and my opponent had about $200,000 or something, so remember, I’m not a politician. Money matters, you know. One of the first questions when I announced in Cape was “Representative, isn’t this a bit risky for you?” And I said “Well, how do you define risk when you’ve had 300 combat missions, when you’ve been shot at and hit?” So, what’s the definition of risk?
TMT: Who were some of the people instrumental in that campaign?
Wallingford: Well, of course, Bill Foster was huge in helping me, Robin Cole, Victor Gunn, Reid Forrester. My wife was a big help; she was a warrior out there. James Harris was another one. The Lord sent me a small but powerful army; he sent me just what I needed. But He always does that.
TMT: Tell me about the 9 countries you’ve served in and what you did there.
Wallingford: Well in the military, I had 25 years in the Air Force and I spent 9 years of that on foreign soil. I spent that both in the European theater and the Mediterranean theater, and the Pacific theater. That’s one reason I said I’d consider [running for Congress] because I had a background that no other candidate had. It’s a significant portion of what happens in the Capitol. I was the director of electronic intelligence for the entire Pacific theater, reporting to Admiral Crowell. They select the cream of the crop from each branch of service; much like a Pentagon assignment and I reported directly to him and covered the entire Pacific for the Threat Analysis Division. As I tell people, when I brief them, for those of you that think al-Qaeda is dead, it’s not. I’ve studied terrorism as Chief of Intelligence for Reconnaissance Operations for the European and Middle Eastern theater.
TMT: We’ve heard you’ve briefed some Secretaries of Defense, can you tell us about that?
Wallingford: There were no cameras or recorders allowed in, so I don’t have any photos of me with any of them, they didn’t allow that kind of thing in a briefing. But it is a little scary at first. I might have been more afraid of that than combat missions. I mean, here is the Secretary of the Air Force, or Defense, or General’s or Admirals, U.S. Senators and Congressmen, Foreign Dignitaries, subcommittee on Intelligence members. These are high-level people making decisions based on your recommendations. I was a captain when I first started doing that.
My first flying after flight training: B-52’s. I flew for 4 years in the RC-135, which is a reconnaissance platform. England, Greece, we flew out of there. We headed very far North in uh, areas I can’t really tell you, but if you look at a globe you can probably figure it out on your own. We flew out of Alaska, in international waters, but I can tell you we saw Soviet airplanes come up and try to intimidate us, an RC-135 had been shot down before, but that was before I joined the unit. And when you land in the cold water, you have about 60 seconds to live and nobody really did. We knew it was a threat because, like I said, it happened before. They tried to intimidate us, and at any moment they could have said, “You’re over our domestic area and shoot us down and whose going to say we were wrong?”
They’d get so close on our wing, I’m not kidding. They’d get so close you could read the number on their helmet.
TMT: If circumstances open the seat again in a few years, would you do it again? Would you consider it?
Wallingford: Oh, definitely. Absolutely. I definitely would, because I felt I would have a background that people are looking for in the House of Representatives.