All five candidates for Oklahoma House District 66 spoke at a forum sponsored by the Sand Springs Chamber of Commerce Monday afternoon at the Tulsa Tech Sand Springs campus.
Three Republicans and two Democrats spoke on issues ranging from infrastructure to mental health, but the focal point of the luncheon was the state of public education funding.
Democrat Angela Graham is a Pre-K teacher, lifelong Sandite, and Charles Page High School graduate.
"We have a broken legislature...that has chosen to stop fighting for us," says Graham, who is running on a heavy education platform and hopes to bring raises to Oklahoma teachers and support staff.
Additionally she wants to see all Oklahomans with health insurance, and wants to reduce statewide incarceration particularly among the female population. A big point for Graham is to undo Oklahoma’s “right-to-work” status and strengthen labor unions.
Democrat Rusty Rowe is a former restaurateur, owning and operating Mod's Coffee and Crepes in downtown Tulsa for seven years before closing shop in December of last year. He lives with his wife of ten years and two children in northwest Tulsa.
"I decided to run because I feel like our current group of legislators have been given opportunities to invest in teachers, students, working class people, and small business owners like myself, and it seems like they often put the needs of their donors before the needs of their people," said Rowe. "I want someone who's listening to the entire district. Not just the Republicans, not just the Democrats - everybody."
"I've been talking to a doctorate of economics...a mayor, city officials, the chief of police, city planners, teachers, school administrators - to make sure that when I say something, it's been researched and I have some teeth to it. I'm not just armchair quarterbacking things."
Current Sand Springs City Councilman and former Senate District 37 candidate Brian Jackson is running as a Republican. Jackson is the Development Manager at Junior Achievement of Eastern Oklahoma and his wife is a public school teacher in Sand Springs. His daughter also attends Sand Springs Public Schools.
"We need a representative that doesn't give up, that will go against the political parties and remember it's about the people," says Jackson.
Jackson was censured by the Republican Party of Tulsa County during the 2016 Senate race for vowing to support Democratic candidate Lloyd Snow against Republican incumbent Dan Newberry, who Jackson considered to be anti-education. The Oklahoma Republican Party's State Central Committee voted in May to uphold a ban preventing Jackson from accessing the OKGOP Datacenter Program.
Republican Emily Delozier is a fourth generation Sandite with a Bachelor's degree in business from the University of Tulsa and three Associate of the Arts degrees from Tulsa Community College.
Delozier spoke in opposition of raising taxes, and in favor of consolidating school districts to eliminate administrative overhead and return education dollars to the classroom.
Incumbent Republican Jadine Nollan is a lifelong Sandite and former Sand Springs Board of Education member. She spoke regarding her past eight years in office and the difficulties the legislature has overcome during her tenure.
"When I was elected in 2011, our country was in a national recession...Oklahoma went into an oil bust...we had pensions that were failing...we had crumbling roads and bridges...we had a worker's compensation system that was one of the most expensive in the nation, we had a capitol building that had been neglected and was unsafe," said Nollan. "We were not tracking any of our tax credits, evaluating them, measuring them, or monitoring them at that point...We had a revenue problem and we were not going to be able to cut our way out of it, though a lot of people still believe that we could."
Nollan pointed to the Oklahoma Incentives Commission, the Energy Stabilization Fund, the Governor's Closing Fund, a revamp of the worker's compensation system, the rainy-day fund, an eight-year plan for transportation, and the Capitol remodel as legislative successes.
According to Nollan, State pension funds are all nearing solvency and the Oklahoma Tax Commission is developing a real-time dashboard to measure and monitor tax credits online.
Nollan holds a 93% rating from the Research Institute for Economic Development, a 100% rating from the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a 50% rating on The Oklahoma Constitution conservative index, a 100% rating from Oklahomans for Life, a 59% rating from the American Conservative Union, a "Pro-Public Education" assessment from Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education, an "F" on the Sierra Club environmental scorecard, and an "A" on the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association scorecard.
All candidates but Delozier vowed not to sign the Oklahoma Taxpayers United referendum petition overturning a historic revenue bill passed this past legislative session to fund teacher pay raises. If the petition garners 42,000 signatures by July 18, a State Question will appear on the November ballots asking Oklahoma voters to veto the package.
HB1010xx is expected to raise $447 million in annual revenue by increasing the gross production tax to 5% on all new oil wells, increasing the cigarette tax by $1 per pack, increasing the gasoline tax by three cents, and increasing the diesel tax by six cents. The money is intended to fund pay raises averaging more than $6,000 for Oklahoma public school teachers.
An opinion published by the Oklahoma Attorneys General states that if HB1010xx is overturned, teacher pay raises will remain intact, but the funding mechanism will be removed and legislators will have to find other ways to back the raises.
Not only has Delozier signed the petition she is also an active member of Oklahoma Taxpayers Unite and has copies of the petition available for signatures.
"You don't want something that's going to raise the price of all goods," said Delozier. "It's not good for Oklahoma. We still have people trying to get on their feet and get a job. You can't raise the price of hauling everything and not expect to raise the price of everything."
The primary election will be held June 26th with the deadline to request absentee ballots set for June 20th at 5:00 p.m. Early Voting will be the 21st-22nd from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and the 23rd from 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.