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Don Nickles      

Donald Lee Nickles is an American political leader who was a United States Senator from Oklahoma from 1981 until 2005.

Donald Lee Nickles (born December 6, 1948) is an American political leader who was a United States Senator from Oklahoma from 1981 until 2005. He is a member of the Republican Party. While in the U.S. Senate, Nickles was considered a fiscal and social conservative member and sponsored legislation that cut taxes, reduced the size of overall government spending, increased the military defense system, and sought to allow voluntary prayer in public schools and later sponsored the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act," which outlawed individual states being required to recognize same-sex marriage from other states.

Born and raised in Ponca City, Oklahoma, Nickles attended Oklahoma State University where he was a member of Beta Theta Pi fraternity. When he was a young man, Nickles' father died and the government's heavy taxation of the family's small manufacturing business (which may have contributed the family business difficulties) made a profound impression on him. He paid his way through college by starting a janitorial business that served nearby office building and business establishments. Following graduation from college, he went to work for Nickles Machine Corporation in Ponca City, a business started by his grandfather. He rose to the position of General Manager. He also served in the United States National Guard from 1970 until 1976.

Encouraged by then-U.S. Senator Dewey F. Bartlett, Nickles ran for the Oklahoma State Senate in 1978 and won. After two years in the State Senate and displeased by the policies of the Carter Administration, Nickles ran for the United States Senate in 1980 to succeed Republican Henry Bellmon who was retiring. As an unknown in a field crowded with business and political bigwigs, Nickles was not initially given much of a chance. Indeed, Bellmon even tried to convince him to wait and run for the House.

Utilizing personal contact, Nickles unique ties to Amway distributors gave him an interpersonal network throughout the state. His platform was based on cutting the size of government, and strong support of tax cuts, and appeal to the prevailing conservative views of Oklahomans proved popular. In 1982 the term Christian right was still unfamiliar, but the movement was active and growing. Nickles beat two well funded oil millionaires (Jack Zink and Ed Noble) in the primary and won the primary run-off against Tulsan Jack Zink, also known as a race car driver. He was later swept into office in the general election against Oklahoma City Mayor Andy Coats on the shoulders of the "Reagan Revolution" of 1980. A front page editorial of the Daily Oklahoman said "Reagan Needs Nickles" and urged his election. At the age of 31, Nickles was the youngest Republican ever elected to the United States Senate.

Nickles quickly rose in the Senate Republican Leadership, serving as Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee in the 101st Congress; Chairman of the Republican Policy Committee in the 102nd, 103rd, and 104th Congresses; and Assistant Republican Leader from 1996 to 2003. After being term-limited out of the Assistant Leader position, Nickles served in the 108th Congress as Chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. Nickles was also on Bob Dole's short list of vice presidential choices, before Dole finally decided on former New York Congressman Jack Kemp.

In December of 2002, Nickles became embroiled in the controversy surrounding Republican Leader Trent Lott. At Senator Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party, Lott had made comments that some took to be racially insensitive. As the controversy grew, Nickles went on national television and became the first senator in leadership to say that Lott should step down. Nickles believed that the controversy over Lott's remarks would distract from the Republican Party's legislative agenda, and as he served as Lott's deputy in the Senate this statement was seen as the proverbial "straw that broke the camel's back." Lott stepped down shortly thereafter. Declining to run for the position of Senate Majority Leader himself, Nickles stepped aside as Tennessee senator Bill Frist was elevated to the post of Republican Leader.

Nickles was re-elected in 1986, 1992 and 1998 and was the senior senator of Oklahoma from 1994 to 2005.

He announced that he would not run again in the 2004 election on October 7, 2003. Republican Tom Coburn won the election to succeed Nickles. Nickles went on to found The Nickles Group, a government consulting group in Washington, D.C..

He was one of the politicians featured in the movie Traffic giving his opinion on the war on drugs.

Nickles and his wife, Linda, have 4 children and several grandchildren and remains in contact with many friends in Oklahoma, where he remains popular. Although Nickles is retired from public life, his popularity brings speculation of future election campaigns in Oklahoma.


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