House District 49
Josh Cantrell and Richard Miller are running to represent HD 49 in Oklahoma's June 2022 Republican primary election. (NonDoc)

(Update: On Tuesday, June 28, Josh Cantrell won election to represent House District 49.)

Republican voters will choose either a county commissioner or retired district judge to be the next representative for southern Oklahoma’s House District 49 on Tuesday.

Josh Cantrell, 47, and Richard Miller, 68, are running in the Republican primary election to represent House District 49. No candidate from another party filed to run, so the winner of the primary will win the seat.

HD 49 is located in south central Oklahoma. It encompasses all of Love County as well as the southern part of Carter County and the western part of Marshall County. The district includes the towns of Madill and Marietta and the southern part of Ardmore.

The current lawmaker from House District 49, Rep. Tommy Hardin (R-Madill), is term-limited and cannot seek reelection.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day.

‘Lifetime neighbor to this area’

In interviews with NonDoc, both candidates said they decided to run for the seat because of previous civic experience.

Cantrell is the Marshall County District 2 commissioner. He worked in the construction industry from 1999 until he became commissioner in 2017.

He said that he has grown up and lived his entire life in HD 49.

“I feel like my experience as county commissioner — my being a lifetime neighbor to this area — will aid me greatly in being able to represent the people within (HD) 49,” Cantrell said.

According to Miller’s campaign website, he was a prosecutor before being elected as a Marshall County District Court judge.

“I had a number of people that encouraged me to run that thought that I could do some good in Oklahoma City, that I could bring my expertise, my knowledge of the law, and my knowledge of the Constitution, and my knowledge of our area to benefit the state and to benefit our area,” Miller said. “I came to the conclusion that the skills and knowledge and experience that I have could serve me well and serve our district and our state well in the State Capitol.”

In 1995, when Miller was a Marshall County associate district judge, he was removed from a drunken driving case and a resisting-arrest case. He was requested to be removed from at least three other misdemeanor cases, according to an article in The Oklahoman at the time.

The article states that Miller was arrested in Durant after breaking into his sister-in-law’s home in search of his then-wife, Connie Harrison. Because he became violent and resisted arrest during the incident, a lawyer asked that Miller not preside over cases involving domestic violence and resisting arrest.

No charges were ever filed in relation to the incident.

More than 25 years later, Miller responded to questions about the incident by saying he has been endorsed by his ex-wife, and he has included a statement from Harrison on campaign pamphlets where she says she “did and said some things in the heat of the divorce that were very unfair to Richard.”

‘A rural versus urban situation’

Because of his experience as commissioner, Cantrell said he has been well-versed “in the needs for rural communities.”

Cantrell said Oklahoma is divided along urban and rural lines rather than party lines.

“By the nature of the beast (…) the urban tends to overshadow the rural,” Cantrell said, adding that he wants to “fight for the rural, to make sure the rural parts of Oklahoma get represented at the State Capitol.”

The most important issues for rural communities, Cantrell said, include federal overreach and infrastructure.

Cantrell said national issues such as gun control need to be left to the states. He also said that because rural communities are so vital to Oklahoma, infrastructure in those areas remains critically important.

“Most of your beef production, most of your wheat production, aren’t done on state highway systems or interstate systems, [they are done with] rural roads,” Cantrell said. “So those infrastructure needs for the rural parts of Oklahoma need to be maintained, they need to be fought for.”

Cantrell also wants to see Oklahoma’s economy become more diversified to offset the volatility of oil and gas. One way that Cantrell thinks Oklahoma can do so is in shipping and distribution because of the highways that run through the state.

Miller’s platform listed on his website includes advocating for rural communities and stopping “Biden’s job-killing regulations and federal mandates.” Additionally, he said that he supports the police and “election integrity,” as well as American energy and rural infrastructure projects.

Miller also said he wants to see changes to how the state budgets money.

“I think we need to make sure that our budgeting process is open and transparent,” Miller said

As the election approaches, Miller said his experience will help him to be successful.

“I have experience in the field of mental health, I have experience in the field of juvenile law, and the field of criminal law, and I also was the advisor for county officials,” Miller said.

Cantrell said his love for the House District 49 area sets him apart.

“My love of this area isn’t necessarily the love of the ground itself,” Cantrell said. “It’s the people that make up the ground, the people that live here, the attitudes that we have towards freedom.”