Don’t look now, but the sputtering bus of Oklahoma democracy is back on the streets, running various stop signs and picking up an assortment of bizarre riders on the road of wacky politics. An elected pastor has also leaped off the bus mid-ride without warning.
Candidate filing opens today for Oklahoma City and Norman city council races. Filing lasts through Wednesday, and those who have already announced their intentions range from a grizzled/frazzled political veteran who has served in two state legislatures to a collegiate freshman who has lived as two genders.
In Oklahoma City’s Ward 4, recently termed-out former Rep. Richard Morrissette announced his candidacy last week via press release, citing “adequate police protection,” road repairs and water as priorities. Morrissette previously served in the New Hampshire legislature as well.
Home builder Todd Stone has also announced his candidacy for the south OKC district that reaches from Capitol Hill out past Lake Stanley Draper. He also told NewsOK that he felt public safety and infrastructure issues were priorities in the district.
Send in the students
In Norman, two OU students have already announced their city council candidacies, according to reports by the OU Daily.
The head of the OU College Republicans, Victor Reyes, said he will seek Norman’s Ward 1 seat, currently held by Councilman Greg Heiple. Reyes, a public relations major and political science minor, told The Daily that he wants to support law enforcement, connect the city and the university better and encourage public/private partnerships.
Meanwhile, fellow OU student Traci Baker is throwing her hat in the ring as well. A political science freshman, Baker told The Daily she will be filing against Norman Ward 7 Councilman Stephen Holman, who has been at the center of a controversy about The Friendly Market selling glass pipes police say are drug paraphernalia. The store’s attorneys say the pipes cannot be assumed to be paraphernalia at time of sale.
Holman, the store’s general manager, has faced charges, and a mistrial has already occurred in the case of a store clerk who was also charged. Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn has said he plans to re-file those charges and continue proceedings against Holman into 2017.
Holman has announced his intention to run for re-election. Baker told The Daily she is Libertarian Caucus chairperson for Oklahoma, and she noted an interest in deregulating zoning and lowering the city’s sales tax. She is openly transgendered, according to the student paper.
While it’s good news for those who love politics that both OKC and Norman council elections will occur on Valentine’s Day, runoffs could spill over to an April 4 election date as well. The Norman City Council actually denied a citizen request to delay the Feb. 14 council election day, as some wanted to extend the campaign period by two months or more.
Perhaps councilors who voted against lengthening the campaign time frame have yet to recover from the long and arduous 2016 presidential election.
Newell resignation leaves Seminole, Wewoka unrepresented
In other political news, citizens of House District 28 will be without representation in the Oklahoma Legislature’s lower chamber when session starts in February. The district encompasses Seminole and Wewoka, among other communities.
Rep. Tom Newell (R-Quitter) announced Friday that he will be stepping down from his seat Dec. 31 to pursue “an opportunity in the private sector,” despite the fact he just ran for and won re-election in November.
A pastor, Newell did not specify the opportunity, and his vacancy leaves Gov. Mary Fallin with a Jan. 30 deadline to set a special election for HD 28. NewsOK reported that the special election could cost between $15,000 and $20,000.
On Facebook, Oklahoma ACLU director Ryan Kiesel blasted Newell for his decision. Kiesel preceded Newell as HD 28’s representative, but Kiesel filled out all of his elected term before choosing not to run for re-election in 2010.
“Tom’s complete and utter disregard for the consequences of his selfish action in this instance is consistent with his service in the Oklahoma House of Representatives,” Kiesel said Saturday on Facebook. “I am at once disgusted and unsurprised by this news. If there is any bright spot here, it is that an undeniable enemy to education, health care, and common sense will no longer have a vote in the Legislature.”
Fortunately for enemies of common sense, their Oklahoma caucus remains robust.
(Correction: This post was updated at 9:20 a.m. Monday, Dec. 5, to reflect that the Cleveland County mistrial listed above was not for Stephen Holman, but rather another Friendly Market employee. NonDoc regrets the error.)