(Editor’s note: Earlier this month, NonDoc emailed questions to more than two-dozen candidates running for various offices. More than half of those sent questions did not respond by the Oct. 20 deadline. The appearance on our site of a candidate’s responses, which have been lightly edited for style and grammar, in no way represents an endorsement from NonDoc.)
Below, she outlines her experiences as a freshman legislator as well as her reasons for seeking re-election against Republican opponent Matt Jackson, who did not respond to similar questions.
Why are you running for office?
I am seeking re-election for House District 85 because I deeply care for and love the state of Oklahoma and its people.
Our state is a wonderful place to live, work and play, but I believe we can do better for the future. I envision an Oklahoma that does not land on the bottom of every best-of list and the top of every worst list. I believe Oklahomans care about each other and the future of our children. Therefore, I am willing to put in the hard work it takes to be in the Oklahoma Legislature.
It is not always easy. We are working on tough issues that work to divide us. However, there is opportunity to come together to find common sense solutions for ALL Oklahomans. It has been an honor to serve House District 85, and I have enjoyed working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. More importantly, I truly enjoying visiting my constituents and tackling the issues they care about the most.
I am running because I believe it is time for leaders who are willing to put people over politics and OUR Oklahoma FIRST.
What have you done in the last 10 years that most qualifies you to hold this office?
I have spent the last 10 years working in the nonprofit community, both as a professional and a volunteer. When I decided to take on a career in the nonprofit industry, I did so because I was most interested in finding ways to solve problems in our local community. I have spent all of my professional career with Girl Scouts of Western Oklahoma. My work allowed me the opportunity to work alongside our public schools, juvenile-justice centers and low-income communities. This work opened my eyes to the greatest issues our state faces: a poor public education system, high incarceration rates of women and young girls, and the lack of economic opportunities for ALL Oklahomans. My job required me to listen to the needs of the girls and the families I served through our programs to effectively make change in their lives. Even though I held leadership roles within the organization, I took the time to get on the ground and work with my staff to make sure we were doing the best job possible.
I serve on the board of directors for Oklahoma Messages Project, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma City, and the Infant Crisis Services Young Professionals. These experiences have kept me close to the issues I care about most: children of incarcerated parents, schools and women.
As a state representative, the most important duty of the job is to listen. That means listen to everyone, not just those who support you and share the same political affiliation. As the Representative, your job is to go above and beyond what is expected of you, even if it is tough and challenging. In order to find solutions that help as many people as possible, you must learn about the issues and the problems, whether you agree with them or not. You have to have the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes to solve problems most affecting them.
I believe my professional and life experiences that have allowed me to listen to others and empathize with those facing terrible challenges most qualify me for the office of state representative.
Oklahoma’s education funding has been a topic most relevant this election year. Are you voting for or against State Question 779 on Nov. 8?
I will be voting for State Question 779. I do want to make note that I firmly believe it is the Legislature’s responsibility to find long-term, sustainable revenue solutions to fund public education, specifically when it comes to teacher pay and benefits. This sales tax is regressive, and it will put a burden on municipalities, small businesses and working families. However, our students deserve a quality public education, and it begins with taking care of our teachers. I would not be who I am today without the knowledge, support and care of my public school teachers. As we look to the future of Oklahoma’s economy, our best investment is public education. Students today will be our business, medical and civic leaders tomorrow.
Aside from education, what topic are you most passionate about?
I am both passionate and concerned about voter turnout in Oklahoma. The record-low voter-turnout numbers we have seen in the last few years is disheartening as an elected leader and citizen. I believe we can make legislative changes to empower individuals to register to vote and vote. I look forward to working on this issue by addressing voter education, ballot access and voting options (absentee ballot voting, voting early and a vote-by-mail program). I believe we can and will address many of the issues we face in our state once we get more Oklahomans out to vote.
What is one piece of legislation you are considering filing next year?
Last session, I introduced HB 3196, which would create a pilot vote-by-mail only program for local elections. I worked with the State Election Board to make sure the program would be feasible for the state and county election boards.
The bill would allow counties to opt-in to the program voluntarily. If a voter is registered in the county that chose to participate in the pilot program, they would automatically receive an absentee ballot at their home for the next local election (county, school board, municipal, legislative, special). This pilot program would require polling places to be closed, with vote-by-mail as the only option for voting in the local election. Through the pilot program, the election boards would be tracking cost as well as voter participation. As voting by mail becomes more popular among voters, we need data to find out what is feasible for Oklahoma voters for future vote-by-mail elections.
This bill passed the House Elections Committee unanimously, however, it did not make it to the House Floor. Should I be re-elected, I intend on introducing the same bill for the 2017 legislative session.
You were able to attain your current position through victory in a special election. Having spent some time in legislative office, what is the one thing you’re most proud of accomplishing since being elected?
It has been an honor to serve House District 85, and, with the incredible support of my constituents, I have been able to find success in my first year as a legislator. I am most proud of the three bills that have been signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin. These three bills would not have made it through both chambers and the governor’s desk without bipartisan support at the Capitol and the advocacy of the public. These three bills will help military families (HB 3192), homeless youth (SB 1369) and individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementias (SB 1127).
After I was elected, many claimed I would not be able accomplish anything in one year as a freshman Democrat. However, I believe hard work, perseverance and working with my colleagues proved them wrong.