House District 17
Incumbent Rep. Jim Grego is facing Republican challenger Shannon Rowell in the House District 17 Republican primary for 2020. (NonDoc)

House District 17 incumbent Rep. Jim Grego (R-Wilburton) will run for re-election against a lone opponent, fellow Republican Shannon Rowell of McAlester.

Grego became the first Republican ever to represent the eastern Oklahoma district following his 2018 victory. He has touted himself as the voice of rural Oklahomans behind his 2018 campaign slogan, “rural strong.”

Rowell is running on platform that revolves around his Christian faith and reducing what he considers government overreach.

The following information was derived from publicly available sources. The primary election will take place June 30, and there will be no general election, as no other candidate filed for the race.

HD 17 at a glance

Current officeholder: Rep. Jim Grego
Zip codes represented: 74425, 74430, 74432, 74501, 74522, 74528, 74536, 74546, 74547, 74553, 74554, 74560, 74561, 74563, 74565, 74571, 74574, 74578, 74935, 74937, 74942, 74966
Counties represented: Latimer, LeFlore, Pittsburg
Cities/Townships represented: Alderson, Canadian, Crowder, Fanshawe, Haileyville, Hartshorne, Krebs, Le Flore, Longtown, McAlester, Pittsburg, Quinton, Red Oak, Savanna, Talihina, Wilburton

Republican candidates

Rep. Jim Grego (R, incumbent)

Rep. Jim Grego

Profession: State representative, farmer / rancher
Town: Wilburton
Grego is currently the vice chairman of the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee.

He has said bringing economic development to rural Oklahoma is one of his top priorities, stating he was “bothered” that the district has not had the means to convert its natural resources to “a product that will create jobs” locally.

A fiscal conservative, Grego said he believes Oklahoma’s education funding is “in good shape” following recent teacher pay increases. He opposes State Question 802, which would expand Medicaid in Oklahoma, saying the state does not have the money to support the program.

Grego has also voiced his displeasure about the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department’s plan to charge Oklahomas an admission fee to visit state parks.

Grego made headlines with a legislative proposal to prohibit products such as almond milk and soy milk to be marketed with the word “milk” in their names. The bill would define “milk” to include only liquids sourced from “hooved mammals like cattle, water buffalo, sheep, goats, yaks, deer, reindeer, moose, horses, and donkeys.”

He has also been working to find a new use for the Talihina Veterans Center, which is slated for closure. Grego has opposed closing the center and has argued that the building and campus are in fine shape for use as a mental health facility or public services.

Grego has been endorsed by the National Rifle Association, the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association, the Oklahoma 2nd Amendment Association and Oklahomans for Health and Parental Rights.

More Info: Website | Facebook

Shannon Rowell (R)

Shannon Rowell

Profession: Minister
Town: McAlester
Rowell writes on his campaign website that he quit a successful business and went into the ministry 10 years ago after “a life-changing encounter with our Lord and Savior.”

His website emphasizes that his political platform is based on his religious beliefs. He writes, “the concept of separation of church and State should only be used to keep the State out of the Church.”

Rowell, who once won $10,000 in a public raffle, is a gun rights supporter and and calls for “No red flag laws, no limits on magazines, assault weapons, or ammunition.”

Writing that the government has “trampled” individual rights, he is an advocate for greatly reducing government oversight where possible. On his campaign website, Rowell writes that he would oppose all tax increases if elected. He has posted on his Facebook page that he opposed the expansion of Medicaid through State Question 802.

Rowell supports “the abolition of abortion in Oklahoma” and has been endorsed by Free the States, an organization that advocates for abortion to be banned and criminalized.
More Info: Website | Facebook