(Editor’s Note: NonDoc’s coverage of intriguing political races continues. In this installment of our #HotRace miniseries, we review candidates for House District 87 in Oklahoma City.)
Since 2009, Rep. Jason Nelson (R-OKC) has spoken for the people of northwest OKC and parts of Warr Acres. Although he could have served until 2020 before term limits kicked him out, the House’s Republican floor leader announced April 6 that he would vacate his position in favor of more time with family, according to a press release.
The race for House District 87 lacks the kind of heat exhibited by candidates in Senate District 13, mainly owing to slim qualifications across the board. Further, the platforms for both parties lack the clear dichotomy of partisan philosophies exhibited in SD 13, where the GOP hopefuls thump firmly on their bible of God, guns and small government while Democrats champion hot-button issues (education, chiefly).
As with coverage of Senate District 13, the following overview presents candidates in order of funds raised as of June 20, the latest reporting deadline.
Collin Walke: Friend of the workers’ union
For full disclosure, Collin Walke’s wife, Lori, contributed commentary for NonDoc’s Vital Conversations series in 2015. Additionally, a year prior to this site launching, NonDoc publisher Andrew Rice endorsed Walke on Twitter during the latter’s first campaign in 2014.
If at first you don’t succeed …
With a firm lead on fundraising efforts, Walke (Facebook / Twitter) is making his second bid for the HD 87 seat. Besides fundraising, the 33-year-old lawyer benefits from two endorsements from local workers’ unions (United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and AFL-CIO), not to mention an Oklahoma County deputy sheriff.
Still, rather than focusing on specific plans for or issues in the district, Walke’s official campaign site provides a pretty generic narrative of what his House tenure might look like:
- “it is time for a new generation of leaders to fight for Oklahoma’s future”
- “partisan politics has dominated the State Legislature for too long”
- “bring people together to solve our problems.”
- “running for State Representative to move Oklahoma forward”
- “everyone deserves access to a quality public education “
- “everyone has the right to a good paying job”
- “Every Oklahoman needs safe neighborhoods and streets”
The most genuine hint of a specific plan for achieving his goals for the district relates to #oklaed. Walke claims on his issues page that he will “work to empower teachers in their own classrooms and won’t force them to teach to a test.”
Ironically, legislators already eliminated several EOI exams this past session, leaving only one non-federally-mandated test in place.
Bruce Lee Smith: Black-belt and blacktop
Although playing second fiddle to Walke’s war chest, asphalt magnate and actual third-degree black-belt holder Bruce Lee Smith (if he has social media, I couldn’t find it) leads his GOP opponents in fundraising. He also rivals Walke’s campaign spending almost dollar for dollar. His lifelong experience in the family business appears to have taught him a thing or two about keeping up with the competition, and he seeks to bring that business acumen to the Legislature.
From the press release announcing his candidacy:
“If elected officials ran our state just a little bit more like a business, we would be in a much better position today.”
Unlike business, however, Smith believes professional politician should be a temporary occupation and explains this vision on his official site:
I believe that public office is a citizen service and that if we are able, we should give back to our state and country. Upon completion of our service, we are to return to our former job and life and live under the policies and laws we produced. Political office should not be one’s life career.
Hard to imagine how a person with Smith’s seemingly conflicting philosophies about business and politics would reconcile the two if actually elected, and it’s naive at best to think that a politician simply gets elected, makes some laws and then has those laws stick to the books forever.
If a good business wants continuity of management and experienced employees, shouldn’t government also?
Kelly Meredith: Education candidate
As a professor at Oklahoma City University and the University of Oklahoma, Kelly Meredith (Facebook / Twitter) has the educational background to warrant her as HD 87’s #oklaed candidate. She’s also a mother of two and claims “a passion for education” on her official site. It’s smart positioning given that there are six schools in the district — five elementaries and one early childhood center.
Although she has received two pages’ worth of requests for yard signs, Meredith may be having issues with accessibility and transparency, as evidenced on her site’s contact page. Commenters there asked for her stance on issues ranging from global warming to the bill last session that would’ve levied felony charges against abortion providers. No replies have been posted as of this publication.
Perhaps the most damning criticism comes from a perceived shame regarding her party affiliation, as one commenter posting as “William Monroe” rants:
I told you and your representatives that I would vote for you but I will not ! I can’t find a single piece of your campaign literature that says you are a proud Democrat . With the mess that has been created by republicans we chose to run this state I simply will not waste my vote on some one who might vote for their policy’s and use the cover that they never campaigned as a Democrat. Sorry!
While it’s entirely possible Meredith could have addressed that and other concerns privately, the apparent silence is potentially deafening.
Edward Granger: ‘Prayer as a hedge of protection’
By far, CPA and Catholic parishioner Edward Granger (Facebook / Twitter) emerges as the most outwardly religious candidate for HD 87’s GOP primary. He states on his official site that, “After prayer, discussion and faith, I decided to seek elected office,” and also, “I ask for prayer as a hedge of protection against ill will and those who are out to destroy our nation.”
Coming from a CPA, i.e. a professional accountant bound by quantitative facts and hard mathematical truths, seeking prayers as a “hedge” seems like a bit of a paradox. Do his clients receive the same precautions for their finances?
Also, Granger’s site mistakenly cites “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as constitutional rights, when in fact that phrase appears in the Declaration of Independence. (Hillary Clinton has also made a similar mistake.)
Still, what Granger lacks in historical accuracy he makes up with religious fervor, and, as of the last finance filing, he’s spent the most pennies from heaven of any other contender.
Bo Broadwater: Texan everyman
Window-dressing specialist Bo Broadwater (Facebook / Twitter) is basically just a nice guy from Texas. He definitely comes across as the kind of candidate with whom voters would most want to have a beer.
His whole ethos, as portrayed on his official site, employs the propaganda of the everyman. He states: “I am not your typical candidate. I have no law degree, my family has not been in politics, and I have not served as an intern or aide in another politician’s campaign.”
Well, get in line, buddy, because save for lawyer Walke, none of the other competitors claim the things you lack, either. In that sense, Broadwater is most definitely a typical HD 87 candidate.
If Broadwater’s campaign advisers wanted him to stand out in the field, they could have taken the exact opposite tack and played up his civic involvement as a Warr Acres city council member since January, which is the kind of government experience that actually does set him apart from the others (and which, incidentally, deconstructs his everyman claim).
Oh well. There’s always 2018.
And the rest
Two candidates who originally filed have been excluded from this overview for various reasons. First, Republican Brian Hill was ordered stricken from the ballot April 25 after Smith contested his candidacy.
Second, registered Libertarian candidate Elle Collins has either unofficially withdrawn or is running the most low-key campaign ever. There’s literally no online footprint of any kind of campaign associated with that name in this district. As of Thursday afternoon, Facebook messages to the potential candidate were unreturned.