(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.)
The House District 93 race pits Democrat Mickey Dollens against Republican Jay Means. Here, Dollens answers questions about his background and qualification for HD 93. Means, who is facing criticism for a recent mailer, did not answer similar questions sent to him, or else his answers would be included as well.
Why are you running for office?
As a fifth-generation Oklahoman, public school teacher, small-business owner and resident of south OKC, I have had many life-changing experiences that have led me to run for office. A defining moment came when I was duct taping textbooks back together after I had just been laid off from my teaching position due to the statewide budget cuts. I knew I couldn’t stand by and do nothing.
What have you done in the last 10 years that most qualifies you to hold this office?
I have had many defining moments in my life. In high school, I was an unknown student-athlete with dreams of earning a Division 1 football scholarship. Through hard work and determination in the classroom and on the field, I earned a full-ride football scholarship to Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. I graduated from SMU with a degree in English. I decided to help other athletes achieve similar dreams by writing and publishing a book titled, Recruit Yourself: Earn an NCAA Football Scholarship.
Through that same dedication, I earned a spot on the United States Bobsled Team and had the honor of representing America overseas. I was able to travel the world and experience new cultures while gaining new perspectives first hand.
I worked as a roughneck on drilling rigs in the Oklahoma oil fields, where I met great people and learned a lot about the industry that fuels a major portion of our state’s economy.
I own and operate a small business. I’ve balanced books, met deadlines and served many satisfied customers. Being a small-business owner has taught me valuable lessons in management, thinking ahead, giving back to the community and working with others to get things done.
Ultimately, what best qualifies me to be the Representative for HD 93 is my time as a teacher at U.S. Grant. My experiences at Grant taught me about the lives of the people in our community. I have expanded this knowledge by meeting with nearly every voter in my district. I believe that a representative has an obligation to be connected to their community, and I will continue listening to constituents and working hard if I earn the opportunity to lead on Nov. 8.
Oklahoma’s education funding has been one of the most relevant topics this election year. Are you voting for or against SQ 779 on Nov. 8?
It’s very unfortunate our Legislature failed to do its job, and now it’s come down to a vote of the people. We must elect responsible legislators who will put people first.
Aside from education, what topic are you most passionate about?
There are so many issues that need our attention in Oklahoma. Whether it be infrastructure, economic development, improving mental health treatment, strengthening public safety or reforming our criminal justice system, we have to be willing to tackle these most pressing issues.
Also, our veterans deserve better care and treatment. These men and women have put their lives on the line to protect our nation and our freedoms. Unfortunately, we have failed to provide even the most basic care for our state’s heroes. The Oklahoma City VA Medical Center has consistently been ranked amongst the lowest performing VA facilities in the country. Our veterans sacrifice everything for us — the least we can do is uphold our obligations to them.
What is one piece of legislation you are considering filing next year?
As a teacher and former athlete, I believe in the value of team sports in the lives of students. However, there is a silent risk to our children. Exercise-induced cardiomegaly, or, simply put, an enlarged heart, is the leading cause of sudden cardiac death in young athletes.
My first bill that I want to pass requires screening for this condition. While students are required to have a physical prior to participation in athletics, they are not required to have a screening for this condition. I believe the lives of our students are worth protecting, and this bill would do just that.
As a casualty of the 2016 teacher layoffs enacted in light of the state’s revenue failure, you likely understand firsthand the challenges facing education funding. What specific measures would you support to direct more funding to Oklahoma’s educational system?
We must address our broken tax policy so we can begin working our way out of the billion dollar revenue shortfall we’re currently in.
Where do we start? I would begin by re-evaluating unnecessary corporate welfare. We give away hundreds of millions of dollars to various industries each year. These sorts of tax policies are not examples of wise fiscal management. They are examples of partisan politics that are designed to win votes. As a legislator, my goal is to fight for a more equitable tax code that works for Oklahoma’s families.
Then I would find ways to be more efficient with our tax dollars and reduce overhead when possible. Last but not least, I would call for an open and transparent budgetary process that is open for public debate.
Once we start generating reliable revenue, then we can begin to tackle the pressing issues facing Oklahoma.