In the Republican runoff for the newly-created House District 36 in eastern Oklahoma County, a local business woman faces a former Fraternal Order of Police president who just received an endorsement from Gov. Kevin Stitt.
Anita Raglin, 62, has lived in Oklahoma County her entire life and has owned a construction business for the past 24 years. In the Aug. 23 runoff, she will face John George, 54, who recently retired after 32 years in law enforcement. On Monday, George received an endorsement from Stitt, which George posted to his Twitter and Facebook.
Before redistricting, House District 36 was in Osage County near the Kansas border, but now it encompasses communities in eastern Oklahoma County, including Luther, Choctaw, Harrah and Jones, along with a portion of northeastern Cleveland County.
No Democrat or third-party candidates filed in the race, so the Aug. 23 runoff will determine the first representative in the newly relocated district. George received 40.86 percent of the GOP vote in the June 28 primary, while Raglin received 33.41 percent in the five-person primary.
‘It’s now or never’
John George retired in January after three decades in law enforcement. He began working with the Oklahoma City Police Department in 1991, and in 2012 he became the president of OKCPD’s chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 123.
“As president of the FOP, it’s real similar to being a legislator in a way. I represented a group of people, and now I’ll represent a larger group of people,” George said in an interview. “I’ve been at the Capitol, so I understand how the system works. I understand how to negotiate things, how to build consensus.”
George, who lives in the Newalla area, said when he has been out knocking doors, some constituents didn’t know they lived in a new House district, but for George, it was part of the impetus of his campaign.
“When I found out there was going to be a new district, and I lived in it, I knew enough about politics that timing is everything,” he said. “Now is the time, with having a new district (there is) no incumbent. And I thought about [running] when I retired. So this seemed like, ‘It’s now or never, let’s do this.'”
Raglin, who lives in Harrah, said owning a business has given her a skillset she thinks will serve her well in the Legislature.
“I’d never dreamed I would be in politics, but at some point, if you want change, and if you want to make a difference, you have to put yourself out there and attack life,” she said.
Raglin and her husband own Authentic Plastering Inc., a construction business. According to her website, her clients have included the likes of former University of Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops.
“When you have your own business, you’re the only one that answers for what happens in that business. The buck stops at your desk,” Raglin said. “Financially, you’re thrifty, you’re responsible to take care of your customers (and) you have to satisfy them.”
One of George’s legislative priorities is creating more financial relief for disabled veterans.
“If you’re 100 percent disabled from the military, you don’t pay property taxes, which is a good thing,” he said. “But if you’re not completely disabled, you still pay 100 percent. But yet, if you’re 90 percent disabled, you still can’t go out and work and function and carry on a job. So maybe we need to work on some kind of graduated scale.”
Raglin said she also hopes to bolster public services in House District 36 with more support.
“We’re short on police officers, the fire department needs all kinds of help,” she said. “Our schools are already bursting at the seams. The teachers need resources (and) the parents also just need reassurance that someone is working for them at the State Capitol.”
George said his career in law enforcement has shown him “what we’re doing wrong” in regards to criminal justice in the state. He said he has particularly concerns about legislation around medical marijuana, and he worries about foreign investments in that industry feeding the black market.
“I understand things that we can do better. You can always do things better,” he said.
‘With intention and vision, we can grow’
Raglin anticipates the new House District 36 growing substantially in the coming years now that the Kickapoo Turnpike is completed. While she recognizes that the turnpike was controversial and “a lot of people fought” against its creation, she said her district should now turn its attention to creating better infrastructure to accommodate new arrivals to the area and to repair damages incurred during the turnpike’s construction.
“With the construction of the turnpike, our roads are just left in shambles,” Raglin said. “We don’t have the revenue now (to fix the roads). You know, once our growth happens, certainly we’ll have more businesses and revenue, but it’s hard to get businesses in if we don’t have the water, the sewage and the good roads to support those businesses.”
But with any new development, Raglin said she hopes the district can maintain its natural environment.
“I think with intention and vision, we can grow — because we’re going to grow — but still not mow down every tree,” she said. “And the landscape out here is beautiful. It’s very foresty and hilly, and I think that we can grow and still keep our environment intact.”
George said the economy, not infrastructure, seems to be the biggest thing on the minds of those in the House District 36. He said he thinks the Legislature can help alleviate constituents’ financial concerns.
“We can get relief by doing away with the state grocery tax (and) freezing senior citizens’ property taxes. Those are some things maybe we can do to give some relief, until we get relief from Washington,” George said. “I don’t know overall how much we can do about it, honestly, but I think we can centralize things here and help our people a little bit.”
Raglin said she identifies with the people in her district, and that she “wants what they want.”
“It’s personal to me. These are my friends and neighbors,” Raglin said. “I look at it like, ‘Well, they’re my boss, they’re who I’m representing. They’re who I’m going to go fight for.’ It’s all about the district for me; I raised all my kids out here, and I love the community.”