(Update: On Tuesday, June 28, Tom Woods and Keith Barenberg advanced to an Aug. 23 runoff. The winner of that election will represent Senate District 4.)
After 12 years in the Oklahoma State Senate, Sen. Mark Allen (R-Spiro) cannot run for reelection because of term limits. This leaves Senate District 4 open, and four Republicans are vying for the seat.
Because no other party has a candidate in the race, the primary election on June 28 could decide the next senator, if one of the candidates manages to win more than 50 percent of the vote. If not, the top two finishers will face each other in a runoff Aug. 23.
Senate District 4 covers far eastern Oklahoma, on the Arkansas border. It includes all of Adair County along with most of Delaware and Sequoyah Counties and part of Cherokee County.
The following overview of the candidates is derived from publicly available information and presented in alphabetical order. The deadline to register to vote in the June 28 election is June 3. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day, and early voting will run June 23-25.
Background: Apperson is a lifelong rancher, currently running the cow-calf operation at his family’s ranch, Circle R Land and Cattle. His website also calls him an “integral part” of a family company called AST Storage, though his position is unclear.
Platform: On his website, Apperson says he is seeking to promote rural economic development, though he does not mention specifics for how he wants to accomplish that goal. He does say that he wants to reduce regulations and stop mandates related to the COVID-19 pandemic. He also says he will “defend life” and “champion Second Amendment rights.”
Apperson has been endorsed by the State Chamber Political Action Committee.
Background: Barenberg is a retired state trooper. He was president of the Oklahoma State Trooper Association for 10 years. In 2016, former Rep. Mike Christian wrote a letter accusing Barenberg and members of Gov. Mary Fallin’s administration of conspiring to allow Barenberg to lobby the Legislature on behalf of OSTA and the Highway Patrol while working on state time and despite not being registered as a lobbyist. No criminal charges were filed against him. On a graphic posted to his Facebook page, he identifies his position for that period as the “Oklahoma Highway Patrol Liaison to the Oklahoma Legislature.”
Platform: The same Facebook post lists Barenberg’s beliefs that “state control should trump federal control,” “belief in God is vital to a strong country” and “gun control violates the Second Amendment.” He also says that he wants to lower taxes. His website contains no information about his platform except that he will “fight for law enforcement and against the cancel culture left.”
Background: Callan says on his website that he is originally from California but moved to Oklahoma in 2010. He and his wife own Zena Suri Alpaca Ranch in Jay. Callan graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has a master’s degree in government from Georgetown. He teaches American government at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College.
Platform: On his website, Callan lists three main issues he would like to address. First, he wants to reform Oklahoma’s marijuana farm permits to stop “new, out of control marijuana farms.” He also wants to increase state funding for youth mental health services. Finally, he argues for a ban on state contracts for elected officials and their families.
Background: Woods is a farmer and business owner. In addition to running a dairy farm, he operates a feed store and trucking company.
Platform: Woods says on his website that his top issues are education, agriculture and small business. He says he wants to bring teacher pay up to the regional average. He does not give specifics of his agriculture platform, but says “he will always be [farmers’] biggest and most stalwart supporter.” Woods also wants to reduce taxes to support business. He also calls himself pro-life and pro-gun.