In Tulsa’s Senate District 37, Republican candidate Cody Rogers is in the midst of a libel and civil conspiracy lawsuit, and Democratic incumbent Sen. Allison Ikely-Freeman continues to recover from a May car accident as they both prepare for the Nov. 3 election.
Ikely-Freeman was hospitalized in May after a car accident on the Turner Turnpike during a strong storm. According to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, her car slid off the highway and struck a car that had previously left the road. The driver of that car was killed in the accident. Ikely-Freeman took a three-month break from the campaign trail to focus on recovering from serious injuries.
“It was a tragedy, but sometimes they’re unavoidable,” Ikely-Freeman said in an interview with NonDoc. “I’m walking again, albeit much slower, but it just takes a lot of time for bones to heal.”
Ikley-Freeman declined to comment any further on the wreck.
Meanwhile, Republican candidate Cody Rogers and his campaign consultant, John Fritz of Tomahawk Strategies LLC, are being sued for libel and civil conspiracy by Rogers’ Republican primary opponent Chris Emerson.
Rogers narrowly defeated Emerson in the June 30 Republican primary with 50.7 percent support, or 103 total votes. Nine days after the primary, Emerson filed the lawsuit. The suit references television and print ads that claimed Emerson had pleaded guilty in a medical malpractice suit and that he has been sued multiple times for his refusal to pay debts.
Emerson says the aforementioned information is false.
In 2014, a medical negligence suit listed Emerson, an anesthesiologist, as a defendant. However, Emerson was dropped as a defendant prior to the settlement because he says he was not present at the time of the negligence. The two suits regarding a failure to pay debts both involved men named Chris Emerson, but neither men were Chris Dwight Emerson, the candidate running for office in SD 37.
Rogers, John Fritz and Tomahawk Strategies LLC filed to dismiss the libel lawsuit on Aug. 7, saying the original suit was meant to do nothing more than “harass, burden, and silence Cody Rogers, the successful candidate for such nomination,” according to court documents.
On Oct. 22, “Dr. Emerson prevailed on a Motion to Dismiss under the Oklahoma Citizens Participation Act,” according to court documents. The defendants have stated their intent to appeal the court order, but Emerson “requests that the court set this matter for a scheduling and/or discovery conference.”
Final rulings are yet to be decided by the court.
Despite being a candidate for SD 37, Rogers and declined to be interviewed for this story. Fritz also declined to speak with NonDoc about the lawsuit.
Campaign issues differ between Ikely-Freeman and Rogers
In 2017, Ikley-Freeman won a special election for SD 37, which covers west Tulsa, Jenks and Sand Springs. She said her top campaign priority for 2020 is the intersection between mental health and the public education system.
“I grew up in poverty, and everyone I knew grew up in poverty,” Ikely-Freeman said. “No one for three generations in my family had not been in poverty (…) You really start to think about if it’s possible or not to leave poverty. I saw education as my only way out.”
Ikely-Freeman, 29, graduated from Oklahoma State with an undergraduate degree in psychology, later earning a master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling from Northeastern State University. Ikely-Freeman also worked for the Oklahoma Department of Human Services as a welfare specialist. She said her background in school-based therapy allows her to understand and advocate for the necessity of adequate counselors in public schools.
“When I was selected, we’d never had a mental health professional in the State Senate before,” Ikely-Freeman said. “Currently, Oklahoma averages about twice the ethical ratio of students to school counselors, and that’s not okay. It’s not setting our kids up for success.”
Ikely-Freeman went on to explain the repercussions of such a ratio, saying teachers are being forced to pick up the slack and students are getting suspended more often.
“I understand I’m a Democrat, but this is a problem for things that (Republicans) care about, too,” Ikely-Freeman said. “This is a problem of how many kids participate in the work force and how many kids end up in prison.”
Rogers, 33, owns a construction company and is a father of five. Prior to being self-employed, he worked in the oil and gas industry. Rogers has a diploma from Catoosa High School.
According to Rogers’ campaign website, he supports the Second Amendment, President Donald Trump and traditional conservative values.
“The radical left is seeking to divide us by race, gender and religion,” Rogers wrote. “They’ve become emboldened by using political correctness to advocate unconscionable practices like partial-birth abortions and transgender reassignment surgery for children.”
He also listed education, the economy and illegal immigration as being in his top priorities. Rogers praised Gov. Kevin Stitt for his efforts toward improving Oklahoma’s education systems and committed to “work with Gov. Stitt to make Oklahoma a top ten state for education.” Rogers said education funding should be diverted to the classroom and away from upper management. In regards to the economy, Rogers said he plans to “end politics as usual.”
“As a small business owner of a pavement construction company, I’ve seen firsthand how overregulation has stunted economic growth,” Rogers said. “I am running to represent the people of our district and vote in their best interest.”
Rogers also committed to blocking any sanctuary statues and to ending “chain migration.” Rogers said the southern border must be secured to protect Oklahomans from violent crime and drug addiction.
“Over 90 percent of the heroin on our streets comes in from the southern border,” Rogers said. “I will strongly support state and federal law enforcement professionals in their efforts to keep our communities safe.”
Ikely-Freeman concluded her interview by going back to what brought her to this point in life, saying the lack of diversity within the pool of candidates running for the special election in 2017 empowered her to run.
“Politics is never a thing that I expected to get into,” Ikely-Freeman said. “There were seven Republicans and zero Democrats, and I felt like people deserved a choice.”
She said she “looked high and low” for a candidate to run before deciding to take on the challenge herself in 2017. Now, running as an incumbent, Ikely-Freeman said she’s proud to have worked with constituents and understands their needs.
“As a legislator, I have worked very hard to be accessible, transparent, to have a high level of communication, and to represent their values to the best of my ability, and I hope to continue that in the years to come,” Ikely-Freeman said.
On his website, Rogers stated his goal is to turn the SD 37 seat red again.
“I’m running to win back our district, so we once again have a solid conservative voice at the Capitol,” Rogers wrote. “I hope to earn your vote.”