The Senate District 17 primary will feature two Republican challengers attempting to unseat incumbent and former educator Sen. Ron Sharp (R-Shawnee), with the winner squaring off against Libertarian candidate Greg Sadler in November.
As the June 30 primary approaches, the Pottawatomie County District Attorney is reportedly considering charges related to campaign mailers and phone calls from a third-party group attacking Sharp. Aaron Brilbeck of News 9 reported about the mailers, which came from the unregistered group Oklahoma Conservative Project, LLC.
In December 2019, Sharp was at the center of a legal dispute with the embattled Epic Virtual Charter School. Epic, which has been under investigation by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, accused Sharp of defamation after the senator stated Epic could be perpetrating “the biggest political scandal in American history” by deliberately misrepresenting enrollment numbers. The defamation lawsuit was later dismissed.
Shane Jett, one of Sharp’s challengers, touts legislative experience of his own. Jett was a member of the Oklahoma House of Representatives from 2004 to 2010 before opting to leave the seat and run for the 5th Congressional District, twice failing to earn the Republican nomination.
Jett is joined by Brandon Baumgarten, a youth minister and small business owner, in the GOP primary.
The three candidates participated in a forum held by Pottawatomie Advocates for Voter Education, and the Senate District 17 portion can be viewed here.
The following information about the candidates is derived from publicly available sources. The Republican primary will be held June 30, and the general election will take place Nov. 3.
SD 17 at a glance
Current office holder: Sen. Ron Sharp
Zip codes represented: 73013, 73020, 73045, 73049, 73054, 73066, 73121, 73130, 73131, 73141, 73150, 73151, 74801, 74804, 74851, 74855, 74857
Counties represented: Oklahoma, Pottawatomie
Cities/Townships represented: Oklahoma City, Choctaw, Harrah, Luther, Jones, McLoud, Shawnee
Sen. Ron Sharp (R, incumbent)
Profession: State senator, former teacher
Platform: Sharp was a teacher at Shawnee Public Schools for 38 years, according to his Senate biography. A former tennis coach, he has been a senator since 2012 and would serve his final allowable term if re-elected.
Much of the legislation Sharp has worked on during his tenure has focused on education, including bills like SB 1115, which allowed teachers with emergency certification to have their contracts extended. He also authored SB 590, which allowed counties to pay for continuing education classes for employees. His full legislative record can be found here.
At a forum hosted by Pottawatomie Advocates for Voter Education, Sharp said his top three issues remain consistent: “budget, education and transportation.” Sharp added that since Oklahoma’s budget relies heavily on the energy industry, he strives to provide “the proper economic environment” to allow the industry’s businesses to continue expanding in Oklahoma. Sharp has also authored bills addressing government transparency and freedom of information.
Sharp formerly served as vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee, of which Sen. Gary Stanislawski has been term-limited. Sharp has been endorsed by the Oklahoma Public Employees Association.
More Info: Website | Facebook
Brandon Baumgarten (R)
Profession: Youth minister, businessman, author
Platform: Baumgarten describes himself as a “100 percent proud conservative” on his campaign website. He is pro-life, a Second Amendment supporter and a “pro-Trump” candidate, he writes.
According to his campaign website, Baumgarten supports private health care plans, which he says provide “affordable options, transparent pricing, and competitive rates.” On immigration, Baumgarten writes he would prevent sanctuary city policies in Oklahoma, “yet support those who come here legally.” He also opposes the death tax and writes that he intends to eliminate “burdensome” taxes and business regulations.
During a forum hosted by Pottawatomie Advocates for Voter Education, Baumgarten said he wanted to address the “digital divide” in Oklahoma communities by improving internet access in rural areas.
Baumgarten previously served as the associate state secretary and state president for the Oklahoma Future Farmers of America, according to his campaign website, and was awarded the Oklahoma NEXTGEN Top 30 Under 30 award.
More Info: Website | Facebook
Shane Jett (R)
Profession: Businessman, former Oklahoma House of Representatives member
Platform: On his campaign website, Jett describes himself as “pro-life, pro-family, pro-veteran, pro-Second Amendment and pro-business.”
Jett represented House District 27 from 2004 to 2010. He also ran for Congress in 2010 and 2014.
Business is one of Jett’s top priorities, according to his campaign website. He writes that he would “remove barriers” that “hinder competition and free enterprise” for Oklahoma businesses.
Jett is currently the CEO of the Citizen Potawatomi Community Development Corporation and was appointed by President Donald Trump to the U.S. Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institution, where he served as chairman of the Community Development Advisory Board.
Greg Sadler (L)
Profession: Employee at printing company
Platform: True to his campaign slogan, “Saddle up with Sadler,” Sadler describes himself as a “simple country boy from Newalla” on his campaign website. Sadler sums up his platform as a belief in “small government, low taxes and giving people the freedom to live their lives as they see fit.”
Sadler is a Second Amendment supporter and writes that the government should “intervene less” any time it is possible. Sadler also says he is a supporter of “free-market education,” criticizing what he calls the Department of Education’s “one-size-fits-all” approach.
More Info: Website | Twitter
(Correction: This article was updated at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 28, to correct an error about Sharp’s committee status. NonDoc regrets the error.)