The field for Oklahoma Senate District 22 Republican primary on Feb. 9 originally included four candidates, but that list shrank late last year after two were ruled ineligible.
In December, former Sen. Rob Johnson and US Fleet Tracking executive Darrick Matthews successfully challenged each other’s eligibility in front of the Oklahoma State Election Board. The board ruled Matthews had not been registered in the district for the required amount of time (he said he had accidentally changed his registration while trying to assist his grandmother with the website) and that Johnson did not reside in the district.
The removal of Johnson and Matthews left Jake Merrick and Keri Shipley as the remaining candidates in the race for the GOP nomination.
The anvil-shaped SD 22 encompasses parts of far northwest Oklahoma City, Piedmont, Yukon and Bethany. The seat is open because former Republican Sen. Stephanie Bice was elected to Congress in November.
A special general election to fill the seat will take place April 6. But first candidates will compete in primaries on Feb. 9. You can read about the Democratic candidates here.
Here’s a look at the two people vying for the Republican nomination. The candidates are presented in alphabetical order. Jake Merrick did not respond to multiple requests to be interviewed for this story, but Keri Shipley did.
A 2020 candidate who received 2.6 percent of the GOP primary vote for Oklahoma’s 5th Congressional District, Merrick bills his 2021 State Senate campaign as a “fight for freedom.”
If elected, he wants to end abortion in Oklahoma, ensure businesses can stay open during the novel coronavirus pandemic and ensure the right of “body autonomy” for children and adults in Oklahoma.
“Individuals must never be forced to be vaccinated as a condition for employment, to enroll in school, to travel or to engage in business,” he wrote on his website. “This would include during a state of emergency.”
Merrick has strong views on the pandemic, the recent presidential election and the media. He wrote on his blog Dec. 2 that the COVID-19 virus was created in a laboratory to benefit the political left and bring the United States to its knees in order to harm Donald Trump’s presidency.
“But the reason it worked was because of the gradual desensitization of the American people. Trace it back and it’s easy to see it was a beautifully orchestrated — albeit evil — plan to subdue an entire country,” he wrote in a Dec. 2 blog post. “Develop a virus in a lab. Release it and allow our hated enemy, China, to take the fall. Stir pandemonium via the bought-and-paid-for-media to incite fear of mass graves even in the face of solid stats that said the mortality rate was .02%.”
Merrick did not respond to email, text message, telephone and Facebook Messenger requests from NonDoc for an interview.
Keri Shipley said she decided to run for the GOP nomination in SD 22 partly as a continuation of her previous public service, particularly as a parent of kids in Deer Creek Public Schools.
“I’ve always been involved in the community,” she said. “Whether it’s fundraising or Edmond Soccer Club, when the opportunity presented itself to run I thought it would be a great way to continue that. I figured if I didn’t, I’d look back on it and regret not trying.”
Shipley current works as a legislative assistant in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
“I love the work,” she said. “And I think I’ve learned a lot being in this position. You get a great feel for how the process works, from ideas to when those ideas go through committees and finally when they go to the floor for a vote. It really has given me a unique perspective and the ability to hit the ground running if elected.”
Shipley said she has learned a lot from listening to the people she encounters while campaigning.
“It’s been fun to hear people’s ideas,” she said. “They talk about education and the economy primarily. Everyone has a list of concerns, and my goal is to make sure they’re being heard. I’ll have an open-door policy if elected.”
To that end, Shipley said the economy and education would likely be her main points of focus as a legislator.
“I want to make sure our kids are getting the kind of education they deserve, and I want to make sure business has what they need to succeed,” she said. “My husband is an oil and gas guy, and I’m very passionate about that.”