Heading into the Aug. 23 Republican runoff for Oklahoma’s House District 87, first-place primary finisher Scott Esk has accused his opponent, Gloria Banister, of using the media to undermine his campaign.
In a YouTube video published July 15, Esk, 55, called Banister “disingenuous” and said she is using “hit pieces to say she is better than I am.” The video was created in response to two KFOR stories about Esk’s past claims that gay people are “worthy of death” and allegations contained in court documents that he abused his children and ex-wife and threatened a local pastor.
Regarding the allegations of abuse, Banister told KFOR, “The court records are public documents, and they speak for themselves. There’s really nothing for me to add.”
Esk, a self-employed courier, finished first in the three-person June primary with 36.7 percent of the vote. He previously worked for the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety from 1999 to 2011, but he was terminated following allegations of sending threatening messages to a pastor and an elder at his former church, the 84th Street Church of Christ.
Banister and her husband own a farm and 1-44 Riverside Speedway, a sprint-car race track. She finished a close second in June, with just shy of 36 percent of the vote.
The winner of the runoff will face Democrat Ellyn Hefner in November to determine who will inherit the seat vacated by Rep. Collin Walke (D-OKC), who served for six years in the House and chose not to seek reelection.
Esk on the record
Esk responded to NonDoc’s interview requests with an email (sic) sent from an account with the moniker “Constitutionalist Scott Esk.”
“You goobers apparently wanted to interview me as I came in 1st place in the repub primary for HD 87 (which you didn’t care to report on), but I see you really misrepresented me in a hit piece you did on me, and for that, I’d say you have forfeited any chance to interview me ever,” Esk wrote. “Stick to journalism and not leftist propaganda, and you might get more Constitutionalists like myself to agree to interviews.”
NonDoc referenced Esk’s first-place finish in an article following the June 28 primary. A primary election preview for HD 87 included Esk’s past remarks about gay people and included allegations from court documents that he threatened and harassed leaders at the 84th Street Church of Christ for supporting his wife in their divorce.
Esk’s comments about LGBTQ people were made on Facebook in 2013, when he said “we would be totally in the right” to execute gay people by stoning.
In response to KFOR’s report, Esk recorded the July 15 YouTube video and stood by his comments, which came to light during his 2014 campaign for House District 91 where he received 5.18 percent of the GOP primary vote.
“I had an opinion against homosexuality. Does that make me a homophobe?” Esk asked. “Maybe some people think it does, but as far as I and many of the voters of House District 87 are concerned, it simply makes me a Christian.”
Esk said he is “not for expanding the death penalty in Oklahoma for homosexuality.” But he added, “It’s much more offensive knowing what obscene things homosexuals do with each other than it is for someone to hold a view that [homosexuality] is indecent.”
In his video response, Esk wondered if Banister might somehow be involved in KFOR’s reporting.
“I did respect [Banister] a lot more before these hit pieces came out,” Esk said in his video. “I don’t know if she had anything to do with reporting things to them or not — they say she had nothing to do with it — but she definitely intends to benefit from it.”
Although Banister said in an interview that she opposes what she calls “extreme homosexuality,” namely “transgender reassignment in young children,” Banister told KFOR that Esk’s views on homosexuality “do not align with mine nor reflect the views of Republican voters in HD87.”
Banister told NonDoc that she thinks Esk’s record “stands for itself, and all you have to do is look him up.”
She encouraged voters to research candidates thoroughly.
“Don’t go in there blindly voting,” she said, “because then that wrong person may just get in.”
‘If it were up to me, we would only be talking about issues’
In his video, Esk said he wishes the conversation around the election in House District 87 would move on from reports over his past, noting that his stance against gay people is not in any of his campaign materials.
“If it were up to me, we would only be talking about issues between Gloria and me,” Esk said.
A central issue in both Banister and Esk’s campaigns is a belief that the government currently oversteps in business regulations.
Banister said her own experience as a business owner has exposed her to policies she thinks the state could improve.
“When you’re a small-business owner, you’re over-regulated. Fees, permits, licenses,” Banister said. “At I-44 Speedway, we race 28 days a year, and that’s if we’re not rained out, and I pay for fees and licenses as if we’re open 365 days a year.”
On his website, Esk broadly opposes government involvement in business, saying, “A business should be free to serve the community, and not be interfered with unless it is alleged to be harming a particular person or group.”
In his video response to KFOR, Esk said the country is “being taken over by a communist regime” and called resisting the federal government “our biggest national emergency.”
Esk is a staunch proponent of state nullification, a legal theory that argues states can invalidate laws and regulations they find unconstitutional. On his website, he says the state can improve its economy by “nullifying edicts from the EPA, FDA, OSHA, etc.”
On his site, Esk says he opposes tax dollars going toward most services, including education and mental health services.
Banister, meanwhile, wants to explore the possibility of police stations hiring psychologists to help “bridge the gap” for police responding to mental health crises.
Banister said she is a proponent of school choice, which she recognizes is “not a popular opinion among a lot of people,” but she said there is “work that we all could do together” regardless of opinions on vouchers.
“I think that we can all agree that if we don’t teach our children critical thinking skills, and teaching them history, arithmetic and English, amongst other languages, then we are going to fail these kids,” Banister said.