(Editor’s Note: As with NonDoc’s #HotRaces series from June, time constraints and limited resources prohibit us from personally interviewing each of almost 30 candidates from Oklahoma’s ongoing runoff elections that we’ve chosen to include in a new series: #OKrunoffs. Instead, we’ve opted to filter information about runoff contenders using publicly available information online and present it through the lens of political commentary and analysis. As the field narrows leading up to the general election Nov. 8, we plan to reach out to remaining candidates more directly.)
After a three-way Democratic race in the June primary, Ronnie Kell and Anna Dearmore each wound up with fewer than half of all votes, thus triggering the need for a runoff in the largely rural House District 16.
The candidates are vying to replace longtime cigarette enthusiast Rep. Jerry Shoemake (D-Morris) who is term-limited. The winner of the Aug. 23 runoff election will face Republican nominee Scott Fetgatter in the Nov. 8 general election.
HD 16 encompasses parts of Muskogee, Okmulgee, Tulsa and Wagoner counties.
On his campaign website and somewhat muted Facebook page, Ronnie Kell paints himself as a genuine, earnest and rather sweet good ol’ boy from Boynton. A small blurb from the Tulsa World via the Coweta American states Kell “enjoys the rural way of life which the district offers its citizens.”
Kell’s blue-collar work history as a rancher-turned-plumber/pipefitter-turned medical gas technician includes a stint at the Oklahoma State Skills Center, where he taught plumbing/pipefitting to inmates at Jess Dunn Correctional Center in Taft, Okla.
It’s that experience which provides perhaps the most progressive part of Kell’s platform: alternatives to incarceration. On a page titled Kell’s View on Current Issues, he states:
Recidivism can be reduced, if more funding is allocated to the Skills Center to rehabilitate the offenders and give them a skill so they can be a productive citizen once released from incarceration.
Recidivism is a continuous problem in the State of Oklahoma, and there are alternatives that can be utilized other than incarceration; ie, drug court and other means, which are less costly to taxpayers.
Other parts of Kell’s platform include raising teacher pay; limiting corporate tax credits (citing the short-lived Great Plains Airlines as an example); being anti-Right to Work but in favor of equal pay for men and women; and a semi-pro-choice stance on abortion (supporting the procedure only in a life-or-death situation for the mother).
Regardless of his political views, Kell’s recent campaign performance provides the biggest supporting evidence for a potential victory come Aug. 23. In the primary, Kell won 43.2 percent of overall votes, including handy wins in each county except Tulsa, which now-eliminated Brenda Golden apparently had a lock on with 80 percent of those votes (garnering a whopping eight out of 10 total votes cast).
Meanwhile, Dallas-born-and-raised Anna Dearmore appears to be running a much slicker campaign, complete with videos on social media and a staff of three to guide her movements. With all that help, one would think the highly visible typos found on the Home page of her campaign site (“Anna is working hard to improve the education,” “Vote for Anna on August 23th”) could be avoided, especially considering her background in magazine publishing.
But the public doesn’t elect candidates for their grammatical acumen (would that we did!) and NonDoc even temporarily had a typo in our SD 13 runoff preview headline.
Instead, voters often base their decisions according to how a candidate’s platform aligns with their worldviews. In which case, if you’re a progressive in HD 16, Dearmore is your candidate. From her issues page:
I have plans not only to raise the state’s revenue, but increase jobs in the process.
Dearmore elaborates in a Facebook reply the night before the June 28 primary:
The gist of that reply conveys outspoken support for medical marijuana and industrial hemp, which dovetails with her support of marijuana decriminalization. So, in addition to what has become, at this point in the local campaign season, practically obligatory support of education funding and budget control, it appears Dearmore has tried to set herself apart by betting big on weed.
With an estimated 36 percent of the district’s population between the ages of 25 and 54 years old according to the latest available U.S. Census data, Dearmore’s progressivism on marijuana could win her points among the Oklahoma Democratic Party’s relatively younger voting demographic. At the same time, her overall loss in the primary featured a double-digit margin, with almost 12 points separating her and Kell overall.
Furthermore, were she to make the general election, Dearmore’s more progressive positions could rancor conservatives in the district.
SD 13 GOP runoff pits Jet McCoy versus Greg McCortney by Josh McBee