In 2018, then-Rep. Rick West’s vote against the historic revenue bill that funded a critical teacher pay raise had placed him in plenty of political crosshairs. With the year’s candidate filing period held amidst the teacher walkout, West decided not to seek re-election for House District 3. Fellow Republican Lundy Kiger filed instead and won the seat while pledging to support Oklahoma’s education system.
In 2020, however, West has tossed his hat back in the race for House District 3, and his GOP primary challenge of Kiger has fueled significant Facebook fodder in eastern Oklahoma politics.
The winner of the June 30 GOP primary in House District 3 will face Democrat Mike Sullivan in November. Sullivan served in the Oklahoma Legislature in the late 1960s and early 1970s, meaning all three candidates have experience in the House of Representatives.
The following overview was derived from publicly available information.
HD 3 at a glance
Incumbent: Rep. Lundy Kiger
Zip codes represented: 74901, 74902, 74932, 74937, 74939, 74940, 74951, 74953, 74959, 74966
Counties represented: LeFlore
Cities/Townships represented: Arkoma, Cameron, Fanshawe, Fort Coffee, Heavener, Howe, Pocola, Poteau, Rock Island, Spiro, Wister
Rep. Lundy Kiger (R, incumbent)
Profession: State representative, owner of Limb Trim LLC, former vice president of a power plant
Platform: Kiger was first elected in 2018 and has focused his attention on a variety of issues, including rural hospitals, water quality and day cares. Kiger has also waded into ongoing discussions about poultry operations in eastern Oklahoma, an issue that has drawn criticism from some in the agriculture sector.
“The new mega farms being built in Cameron are too close to housing additions and are reducing the values of properties and creating issues with odor,” Kiger said in a recent press release. “Now that we are entering the hot season of the year, I’m getting complaints from citizens in and near Cameron complaining of the terrible smell of chickens and fecal matter,” Kiger said. “Those I talked to living on the west and south side of Cameron said during the summer you can’t even go outside on your back porch to sit with your family or have dinner.”
Kiger was involved in the effort to address concerns about the city of Heavener’s municipal water system, which put him and the town at odds with a multinational corporation. Kiger is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation and posted on Facebook what appears to be a political advertisement from the Choctaw Nation comparing Kiger and West.
Since taking office, Kiger has posted his official legislative mugshots 262 times on Facebook, almost always accompanied by a lengthy statement about something related to the State Capitol or his district. Kiger is prone to posting some or all of his statements entirely in capital letters, such as his June 19 post offering a $250 reward for identification of “THE LOW LIFE SCUMS OF THE EARTH WHO ARE STEALING ‘KIGER FOR STATE REPRESENTATIVE’ SIGNS IN POCOLA.”
Kiger concludes the post by saying anyone who catches the thieves on camera can help him “RIP EACH OF THEM A NEW ONE!”
Kiger does not appear to have a campaign website, but he has used his Facebook page to criticize West for leaving the Legislature after only one term and for making statements that Kiger says are false.
Rick West (R)
Profession: Poultry farmer, cattle rancher, retired animal inspector for USDA / APHIS
Platform: West served one term in the Oklahoma Legislature after being elected in 2016. He moved to LeFlore County in 1977 and serves as a Baptist church deacon, according to his 2016 campaign announcement.
In his 2020 campaign announcement, West says he learned during his two years in office to be skeptical of lobbyists and special interests “because their influence starts out soft but their aim is to rope you in close so that you work only for them.”
“It was not easy to ‘vote my district’ each time as it often meant going against ‘leadership’ or stepping away from solutions I knew might bring other benefits later on,” West says. “By that I mean that ‘going along’ in the Legislature is how members move up in influential committees and power relationships. It was, however, the right thing to do and it let me look everyone back home, right in the eye, and tell the truth about what was happening.”
On the first day of the teacher walkout in 2018, West answered questions from NonDoc about why he voted against the revenue-raising measure that funded the teacher pay raises.
“It’s not going to fund [the teacher raises]. The reason it’s not going to fund it is because it’s not going to bring in the money they say it will,” West said. “Cigarette tax will not bring in that much money. Never has. It’s like the other taxes. It’s like the gambling and horse racing and alcohol and the last cigarette tax. They just don’t bring in the amount of money they say they will.”
He also said the gross production tax on oil and gas would be unstable.
“It’s going to be up and down for a barrel of oil. It’s going to fluctuate. It could be $100, or it could be $28. So these taxes that we’ve passed, we’re going to end up in a year, we’re going to end up having to find additional revenue to cover up to pay for what we’ve done last Monday, because it’s not going to be there,” West said. “We gotta look for other sources of revenue besides raising taxes.”
West’s campaign website is sparse, but it features a pushcard brandishing a pixelated logo and an explanation of “The Rick West Platform.” The three pillars are: defending the Second Amendment, the right to life and “traditional family values”; no new taxes and reforming government; and defending rural property rights, which West describes as being opposed to “the zany zoning scheme proposed by the current incumbent.”
The second page of the pushcard says West decided to run for House District 3 again because “The incumbent voted for an inappropriate education bill (HB 1018) that was later vetoed by Gov. Kevin Stitt.”
HB 1018 would have directed school districts to provide “age-appropriate” instruction about HIV and AIDS.
West’s Facebook page touts the endorsement of former Sallisaw Rep. John Bennett, who says West “is Not a quitter.” Like West, Bennett decided not to seek re-election in 2018 after voting against the funding for Oklahoma’s historic teacher pay raise.
West’s primary campaign promise is that he will not accept contributions or gifts from political action committees or lobbyists. Saturday morning, West recorded a five-minute video about returning a check that he had received.
Mike Sullivan (D)
Profession: Former state representative, former district attorney
Platform: Sullivan served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives in the late 1960s and early 1970s before serving as district attorney for LeFlore and Lattimer counties in the 1990s. His 2020 campaign slogan is “I Like Mike,” a play on the slogan of President Dwight Eisenhower.
A graduate of Central State College (which is now known as the University of Central Oklahoma), Sullivan earned a law degree from the University of Tulsa. On a long list of his accomplishments and goals posted on his campaign Facebook page, Sullivan says he is running for House District 3 “because I enjoy helping people, ALL THE PEOPLE, with no personal gain for myself.”
The same post says Sullivan served 14 years on a local board of education and eight years as district attorney. During that time, three employees of Sullivan’s office were indicted by the state’s multi-county grand jury.
On his Facebook page, Sullivan says he helped secure financing for new roads in LeFlore County when he was in the Legislature. He also says he was integral in the transition of Poteau Community College to Carl Albert State College. “I was voted most outstanding legislator three straight years in a row,” he writes.
In a campaign announcement in the Heavener Ledger, Sullivan notes that he owns nine guns and supports the Second Amendment. He also calls for improving the economic prospects for people in HD 3.
“I find it appalling that so many of our young people have to leave this area when they finish their education to find a decent job. If elected, I will devote all my time to this job. I will work hard to improve conditions that will attract jobs to this area,” Sullivan writes. “I am very conservative when it comes to fiscal policy. I try not to waste my money and I don’t want the government wasting yours and my tax dollars. I will watch this very closely.”
On March 30, Sullivan posted on his personal Facebook page about a new virus making the rounds: the “kindness virus.”
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