A whirlwind tour through Oklahoma for Sen. Andrew Rice, D-Oklahoma City, this week included a stop in Duncan on Thursday.

Rice, 34, announced Wednesday that he will seek to defeat incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe.

It’s Rice’s first term in the Oklahoma Senate and he appears to be ready for the challenge against Inhofe, 72, who has a long track record in the political arena.

During Rice’s visit to Duncan, he encountered an impromptu visit with Kim Clement of Marlow, an advocate for children and adults with disabilities.

Clement is a graduate of Partners in Policy Making, an advocacy program.

While the visit was not on Rice’s itinerary, he took the time to listen to Clement and they discussed the legislative process.

He encouraged Clement to bring to legislators’ attention any items or possible bills before session starts.

He said many times people will wait until the session is actually open to approach their legislators and, by then, it cannot only be too late, but the business of the Capitol leaves little time to deal with new issues.

“Basically I wanted him to know about Partners in Policy and be more aware of people with disabilities,” Clement said Friday about the “right place, right time” meeting.

She was impressed with Rice and his willingness to listen.

“He acted like he was really interested. Some of them hear ‘disability’ and will blow you off,” she said.

Clement had heard a “senator” was in town and immediately wanted to know who the person was. She was glad she took 10 minutes to meet Rice.

“That’s the thing, we don’t always know all of the senators and I thought, this is my chance. You could be walking down the street and not know them if you don’t take the time,” she said.

After the visit, Clement went home and looked up Rice on the Internet. She discovered that Rice is actively interested in health-care issues.

“He’s young, but he seemed really interested. Every year, Partners in Policy has a mock legislative session. He said he was going to go and I’m hoping he will.”

Rice said Thursday that one of the biggest concerns facing Oklahomans is health care issues and the rising costs associated with health care.

He described it as a “complex problem.” A goal he said is that Oklahoma and the nation should do what they can to get as many people insured as possible.

“Everyone is affected,” he said.

In relation to the health-care issues, Rice said, hunger is also a problem for many people. In June he took the Food Stamp Challenge.

He said while his family doesn’t have the worries of not being able to buy food, the challenge offered a new perspective on exactly how difficult it is to buy food for a family of four. The challenge was for Rice to live on $21 of groceries for one week.

“I authored a task force for hunger in Oklahoma and we are in No. 3 in the bottom,” he said, adding that it was appalling being that Oklahoma has a strong agriculture-based economy.

“I went to the store and, surprisingly enough, the most expensive item was a gallon of milk (nearly $4). And I was not able to buy fresh vegetables.”

Rice rattled off a list of starchy items — macaroni and cheese, pasta, potatoes — and said that while he was able to eat and wasn’t necessarily hungry, the food left him not feeling so well.

“It’s wrong that the healthier food that we need is more expensive,” he said. For those living on those types of food daily, he said, it would be easy to see how it could affect their nutritional health.

Rice said he plans to return to Duncan as he continues his campaign to unseat Inhofe.

Inhofe was re-elected to the Senate in 1996 and 2002, after being elected to fill an unexpired term in 1994.

Inhofe is seen as an extremely conservative leader.

Rice believes that he has a strong chance and said he hears that people are ready for a change.

He also would like to see the presence of troops in Iraq reversed and troops brought home.

He is married to Dr. Apple Newman Rice and they have two sons, Noah, 2, and Parker, 6 months.

Dr. Rice is a pathologist in Oklahoma City.

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