Senate District 1
James Fuser, bottom, will challenge incumbent Sen. Micheal Bergstrom, top, in Oklahoma State Senate District 1 on Tuesday, June 30, 2020. (NonDoc)

James Fuser represented farmers as a director of District 6 for the Oklahoma Farm Bureau board of directors until he decided to run for a seat in the Oklahoma Legislature. Now he hopes to have a new constituency soon: the residents of State Senate District 1.

Fuser is running as a Republican against incumbent Sen. Micheal Bergstrom (R-Adair), an educator who was first elected to the Legislature in 2016. The northeastern Oklahoma seat drew no other candidates, so the winner of the GOP primary on June 30 will be the next officeholder.

The following overview of the candidates was derived from publicly available information.

Senate District 1 at a glance

Officeholder: Sen. Micheal Bergstrom
ZIP codes represented: 74016, 74072, 74301, 74330, 74331, 74332, 74333, 74338, 74339, 74340, 74342, 74343, 74344, 74346, 74349, 74350, 74352, 74354, 74358, 74360, 74361, 74363, 74364, 74365, 74366, 74367, 74369, 74370
Counties represented: Craig, Delaware, Mayes, Ottawa


Sen. Micheal Bergstrom (R, incumbent)

Sen. Micheal Bergstrom

Town: Adair
Profession: Educator, former journalist
Platform: Bergstrom’s website describes him as a “defender of freedom,” highlighting his support of President Donald Trump. His experience as a journalist is described as a “unique background” that allows him to call out “fake news” and “abuse of the First Amendment.”

His website also says he is fiscally conservative and “100 percent pro-life.” Bergstrom has been endorsed by Oklahomans for Health and Parental Rights, the NRA and the Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Association, which has named him “senator of the year” three years in a row. Bergstrom was also endorsed by U.S. Sen. James Lankford.

Bergstrom’s website cites his accomplishments from his first two terms as reducing budget deficits, helping to pass the permitless carry law and raising teacher pay. He hopes to increase the number of jobs in the state and grow the tourism industry, according to his website.

Bergstrom serves as vice chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. His most prominent work during the 2020 session included a bill aimed at preventing assaults on health care professionals, which was signed by the governor. He also pushed a failed joint resolution that would have amended the Oklahoma Constitution to clarify that non-citizens are not eligible to vote. More details on Bergstrom’s record can be found here.

In February, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) named Bergstrom its “state legislator of the month” for his bill limiting restrictions on occupational licenses. ALEC, which gave Bergstrom a grant to travel to Austin for “educational sessions,” has been criticized as a tool by which corporations can promote their interests to state legislators.

Bergstrom is a published author. His novel, Belly of the Whale, includes topics of economic depression, murder, a fictional blood disorder, and “religious fanatics, wacko hobos, terrorists, tanks in the streets, and a trio of mysterious companions in a society which seems to be losing its mind and soul,” according to the Amazon summary.

Links: Website | Facebook

James Fuser (R)

James Fuser

Town: Afton
Profession: Commercial farm owner and operator
Platform: Fuser’s website describes him as “conservative, honest, experienced, respected,” and his slogan promises “he’s one of us.” In a letter to residents of Senate District 1, he wrote, “I believe my values and my principles match well with what the people of District 1 want in their voice at the State Capitol.”

Fuser’s platform includes traditional Republican positions, including limited government, freedom of religion, anti-abortion policies and defense of the Second Amendment. He believes that to improve education, control of subject matter should be given to localities and parents rather than the state.

Fuser also hopes to diversify agriculture and improve Oklahoma’s access to expanding markets, create jobs by removing government regulations, stop the EPA from “abusing their regulatory power” and “protect District 1 property owners’ rights from intrusive acts such as the Endangered Species Act to take land from property owners.”

Other priorities include assuring veteran and rural access to health care, minimizing health care regulations that increase costs and improving highway infrastructure.

In 2017, Fuser was one of the more vocal supporters of State Question 777, also known as the “right to farm,” which voters ultimately rejected.

According to his website, Fuser has held numerous leadership positions in agriculture-related organizations. He served as the president of the Ottawa County Farm Bureau from 1995 to 2010 and had been the Oklahoma Farm Bureau director for District 6 since 2013. Fuser has not been endorsed by the political arm of the Farm Bureau.

Links: Website | Facebook

The election between Bergstrom and Fuser will be held on Tuesday, June 30.

(Update: This article was updated at 8 a.m. Tuesday, June 23, to clarify Fuser’s departure from the Oklahoma Farm Bureau board of directors to run for office.)