(Update: On Tuesday, June 28, John Kane won election to represent House District 11.)
After one term in office, Rep. Wendi Stearman (R-Collinsville) boasts on her campaign website that she is the most conservative member of the Oklahoma House. In the tomorrow’s Republican primary election for House District 11, Stearman faces cattle rancher John Kane, who takes issue with Stearman’s fundamental beliefs about the purpose of government.
No other candidates have filed to run in the district, which encompasses parts of Rogers, Washington and Tulsa Counties, including Bartlesville, so the GOP primary will decide the next representative.
Kane and Stearman spoke with NonDoc about their philosophies and policy priorities in advance of the election. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on June 28.
Making friends at the Capitol
Kane said in an interview that he decided to run because he saw “room for improvement” in the way Stearman represents the district.
“I think some of what I’ve seen missing is that effort to build relationships within that Republican caucus in the House of Representatives, to help foster good conservative legislation through,” Kane said.
Stearman says on her website that “the State Capitol is not the place to go ‘make friends.'”
Kane also said he also wants to be closer to the people of HD 11.
“I want to be more available, I want to be more present,” Kane said. “I want the people of our district feel closer to their state government.”
According to his campaign website, Kane started his career in banking before going into ranching with his father. Gov. Kevin Stitt appointed Kane to serve on the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Commission, but Kane resigned from the commission shortly after announcing his candidacy for the House.
Stearman said she decided to seek reelection because of the amount of support she received when she ran for her first term in 2020.
“I did not want to waste the effort that all these people put into getting me elected the first time,” Stearman said in an interview. “And so I was not willing to remove my name from the ballot.”
Stearman gained notoriety during her first term when she co-authored HB 4327, which prohibits physicians from performing abortions, with limited exceptions, and provides for an enforcement mechanism in which private citizens may bring civil suits against people they believe were involved in providing an abortion. The law was modeled on a similar measure that was passed in Texas last year.
Stearman said she did not initially plan for abortion to be the central issue of her candidacy.
“I ran on a platform of protecting individual liberty,” Stearman said. “I did not even plan on running pro-life when I campaigned, I just saw the opportunity, saw the effectiveness of that legislation, that law in Texas, and decided we’d be foolish not to try it.”
According to her campaign website, Stearman was raised in Broken Arrow and settled in Washington County in 2007. She and her husband have six children.
‘Clearly, we do not agree’
If she gets reelected, Stearman said that she wants to “continue what I’ve already started.”
“I thoroughly enjoy being a part of the Administrative Rules committee, examining what’s coming out of the state agencies and the rules that they’re passing and interacting with them” Stearman said.
Stearman also sits on the Appropriations and Budget Committee and the Public Health Committee, and she is the vice chair of the State Powers Committee.
In addition to opposing abortion, other issues she mentions in her campaign include promoting gun rights and parental rights.
Kane said that if he is elected, he will prioritize “conservative Christian values” and education. He also wants to see more “enforcement of our own marijuana laws.”
To improve education, Kane said, “the only (option) I’m not open for is throwing more money and doing the same thing, because we’ve done the same thing my entire life, and we’re sitting right where we’ve always sat (in national education rankings).”
Kane also said that he would have supported the incentive package passed by the Legislature in April meant to lure a Panasonic battery plant to Pryor. Stearman was one of 17 representatives who voted against the bill.
Both candidates agreed that they disagree about the role of government.
“Clearly, we do not agree, and the difference really is our view of government,” Stearman said. “I believe that the role of the representative is to represent the individual against an ever-growing government and to protect those rights.”
“He believes that government should do good for citizens, and I disagree with that,” Stearman continued. “I think that the good the government does is to restrain itself and protect rights.”
Kane said that he thinks government has a specific role to play.
“My opponent has said that she thinks that government is inherently evil…,” Kane said. “I think there’s a place for good government, and I am for limited government.”
“If you go in with that negative of an attitude, how can you really be part of making government serve the role that it’s intended to serve in a positive way?” Kane asked.