Several candidates for open seats in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and the state Senate were among those who spoke last week at a forum sponsored by the Yukon Chamber of Commerce.
Among those who participated were candidates for House District 43, which includes most of Yukon. Those seeking House Seat 43 include Democrat Chantelle Cory and Republican Jay Steagall. Both attended the event. HD-43 was previously held by John Paul Jordan, who chose not to seek a third term.
Also appearing were candidates for House District 41, which includes Piedmont and a small portion of Surrey Hills.
The two candidates are Democrat Jennie Scott and Republican Denise Crosswhite Hader. Scott attended the event. Hader, who had a previous commitment in Enid, did not but did complete a statement.
The seat was previously held by John Ennis, who is term-limited.
Also included in the forum were candidates for Senate District 22. The seat is currently held by Stephanie Bice, who is seeking her second term in office.
She is being opposed by William Andrews, a Democrat.
HOUSE DISTRICT 43
Cory, who works in the technology industry, said her personal and professional experience will aid her in the legislature.
She said she has worked hard throughout her life, including watching her brother shortly after he was born, helping her father throw newspapers and having a booth at a young age at a local flea market.
She has done all of this, Cory said, despite having health issues that include surviving cancer and multiple sclerosis.
“I believe in education as a lifelong pursuit. … I believe in learning and I believe that is one of the most important skills a person can take into public service,” she said.
Steagall, who owns a Yukon business and is in the military, said his family was involved in the oil and gas industry when he was growing up in Chickasha.
“We know how important that is to the state; how important that is to our education system, how important it is to our road and bridges,” Steagall said.
Cory said there are three areas in which the government should play an important role — the role of law, opportunity and societal.
“These are roles that the government plays when it comes to business. Even if we don’t want the government interfering, it does have the responsibility to create an environment in society that is set up to support businesses,” she said.
As for what is working in Oklahoma, Cory said establishing a business is simple. No specialized services are needed.
“The state of Oklahoma believes in providing concrete support for somebody who wants to start up a business,” she said.
Challenges, Cory said, include trying to accomplish anything in two years.
“Look at their motivations for why they are going to service. I want to bring solutions. I have a job. I have a career. I am not interested in going into politics for the long term. I am interested in bringing and proposing solutions for the long term,” she said.
Steagall put his focus on education, public safety, health care and infrastructure.
“The role of our government is to provide good governance around those four priorities. The question is how do we do that. This is a dance between our local economies and the state legislature. Thanks to the vision of some of our sitting legislators, we’re hearing more words and phrases like diversification of our economy,” he said.
While the economy has been focused on the oil and gas industry, Steagall said the state must look to diversify.
He said he hopes to introduce legislation that will help local economies diversify by drawing new industries to the area, including the aeronautical industry, which is growing rapidly.
A big part of that, he said, is finding out what is needed to set the stage for success.
HOUSE DISTRICT 41
Jennie Scott is a fourth-grade teacher in Enid, who is seeking her first term in the state legislature.
Scott said the legislature needs a few more teachers serving to offer fresh ideas.
“I can tell you what looks good on paper, but doesn’t translate well at the local level. We have a lot that. I can offer fresh ideas for long-term solutions because I saw in Georgia what a fully-funded classroom looks like,” she said.
Scott graduated from Emory University and spent several years living in Georgia, she said.
“I am a problem solver. I’m not interested in pointing fingers, I’m not interested in excuses. I just want to work together to create solution for problems we have,” she said.
Scott said the teacher shortage is going to get worse before it gets better because more than 9,000 teachers are nearing retirement age. Finding a way to replace those educators, she said, must be a top priority.
Scott also said the state must continue to diversify its economy, not focusing entirely on the oil and gas industry.
“I’m glad they are here. I’m grateful. I think we should continue to build the market. But we know they are unstable, so it is hard to do long-term planning with a market that goes up and down,” she said.
She did say that diversification that includes the wind industry, as well as expansion of agriculture are helpful.
“There are things we can do if we are creative to create diversification within our industries,” she said.
Crosswhite Hader provided a statement in which she also said diversification is important.
“While our oil and gas industry is currently booming, especially here in Canadian County, we must diversify our economy. Just as you would do with your personal investments, we shouldn’t put al of our eggs in one basket. The legislature must continue to work for a business-friendly environment so that new business will locate here and current businesses can thrive,” Crosswhite Hader wrote.
SENATE DISTRICT 22
Andrews, who is a Democrat, said it is important to focus on the challenges that are being brought by the extensive growth seen in the region.
“We need to recognize that the challenges that we faced in 1980 or 1960 are not the same challenges that we are facing today,” he said.
Bice, who has served for the past four years, said collaboration is important.
“It’s face to face, person-to-person, sitting down and finding solutions to problems,” she said.
Bice, a Republican, said she ran for office because of her two high-school aged daughters and her desire that they remain in Oklahoma after they finish school and begin their families.
Andrews said the state’s gross production tax needs to be changed to help provide funding for the state’s core services.
“Now, what started out as a great incentive for oil and gas producers has become a give-away. It does the thing that is most onerous about our government. It plays favorites. Now, even with the recent increase, hydraulic fracking, horizontal drilling, still gets a better tax rate than vertical drillers. Yet benefits the big guys much more than the small ones,” he said. “State government should not be playing favorites. A level playing field. That is what we need.”
Bice said government should not be an impediment to economic growth.
“We need to let businesses thrive. We can do that by not being an impediment, whether it be rules and regulations or whether it be licensing,” she said. “Less is more is a really good phrase here.”
Bice said pointed to the transportation department’s 8-year plan as a success in the state.
“It is one of the best thought-out plans I have seen from government,” she said, point out that it is reviewed and updated each year.
As far as areas that need to be improved, Bice pointed to the criminal justice system.
“We have to pivot from tough on crime to smart on crime,” she said, endorsing a plan that would offer alternatives for prison.
“We really have to rethink what make sense from a criminal justice perspective. Does that mean we let everyone out? Absolutely not. There are people who are incarcerated, who quite frankly, should never get out. But we also have people who are incarcerated for things like possession, multiple times. What about rehabilitation? It’s very clear there are programs that can address those issues, and I want to focus on that,” Bice said.