A controversial redistricting process last year set the stage for what will likely be a competitive Aug. 23 runoff between incumbent District 1 County Commissioner Carrie Blumert and her challenger, former Sen. Anastasia Pittman.
Four candidates sought the Democratic Party’s nomination for County Commissioner District 1 in the June 28 primary, but Pittman and Blumert finished in the lead, with 38.64 percent of the vote and 35.71 percent, respectively.
The winner of the runoff will face Republican Willard Linzy in the general election on Nov. 8
District 1 includes parts of Oklahoma City, Del City, Forest Park, Jones, Midwest City, Nicoma Park, Spencer and The Village.
The Village was the subject of redistricting controversy in November, when commissioners voted to approve a map that moved The Village into District 1 from District 3. Pittman spoke out against the new boundaries during the public comment portion of the meeting.
“Redistricting should ensure communities of color have a fair shot at electing candidates who represent their views and who will fight for their concerns,” Pittman said. “In my studies and conversations with community leaders, we’ve looked at the maps and we are concerned about the representation of these districts and about equitable funding.”
Blumert voted for the new map, saying she had to compromise since she did not believe she could get other commissioners’ votes on the map she had proposed, which did not include The Village in District 1.
“I do want to make sure that it is on the record that the map I am proposing looks very similar to the map that is currently in place that Commissioner Willa Johnson supported and voted for 10 years ago,” Blumert said in the November 2021 meeting.
In advance of next week’s runoff, Blumert spoke on the phone with NonDoc about her priorities for a potential second term. Pittman did not grant an interview, citing an ongoing health issue with a family member. Her comments in this article were taken from a forum hosted by Rep. Jason Lowe (D-OKC) in June and from her campaign website.
Why they’re running
Blumert, who was first elected in 2018, said she is running for a second term because some of the work she hoped to get done remains unfinished.
“There’s so much momentum happening in Oklahoma City and Oklahoma County,” Blumert said. “We just passed a bond issue to build a new detention center. MAPS 4 projects are going out to build several new crisis centers, and we have ARPA money to spend. It was a no-brainer for me to run for reelection. I wanted to be a part of it, especially the new jail, and there are a lot of roads in my district that still need attention.”
Pittman served in the Oklahoma House of Representatives and then the Oklahoma State Senate before becoming the Democratic Party’s nominee for lieutenant governor in 2018. According to her website, Pittman is running to fix problems in the community.
“I want to ensure that we address our greatest challenges with our Oklahoma County Jail system, address our mental health crisis, promote our senior living centers, and invest in our teachers and students,” she wrote.
Top issues for District 1
Blumert said one of the most important issues for District 1 is making sure outlying areas of the county get a fair shake when it comes to infrastructure projects.
“The roads in northeast Oklahoma City and in Spencer, Nicoma Park, and that area, we get the most calls about those roads,” Blumert said. “I’d like to spend more resources in those areas to improve the roads, and, while the jail is a top issue, I’d like to get some ARPA money out into those communities for small businesses. And we also need to address affordable housing needs and homelessness.”
She said she would also like to grow the C-Pace program, which allows the owners of commercial properties to access funds to make energy efficient improvements. The money is paid back over 20 years. Blumert cited the development of the Harvey Bakery building as an example of a successful C-Pace project.
Pittman said during the June forum that among her top priorities if elected would be improving access to health care and job training, two things she said are crucial to getting more people into their own homes.
“We have about 39,000 residents who are in need of housing, and we have enough for probably 12 percent of that,” she said. “No matter what, there is never enough available. Not only do we need training, we need to invest in home ownership. And we also have to invest in health care, because if you’re not healthy you’re not going to work or school, and if you’re not going to work you can’t afford a house.”
Jail remains a major issue for county leaders
Both candidates have expressed strong opinions about the current jail, and the new one county voters approved significant financing for in June. With the new jail more than five years away, Blumert said she has concerns about the interim period.
“While we’re building this new facility, we obviously still have to take care of the people who are still in the current building,” Blumert said. “I know the jail trust has asked for ARPA dollars for the current building. I’m not sure where I stand on that. I don’t know how much ARPA money we should spend on a building that we will vacate in the new few years. But, on the flip side, the detainees and staff’s physical health and safety is of the utmost importance, so we may need to invest a little bit in that area right now.”
Blumert said the dozen deaths in the jail this year remain concerning.
“I think the jail trust has a pretty big task on their hands,” she said. “We’ve had a couple of deaths in the last few weeks. And with every death their job becomes even more pertinent to work with (jail administrator) Greg Williams and work with staff to keep folks alive. As a commissioner, sometimes it’s frustrating because I don’t have direct authority over how that building is run day to day.”
During her remarks at the forum in June, Pittman leveled criticism at the facility and how it is run.
“I support the new jail, not because I want a $300 million bill put toward the residents of Oklahoma County, but because of the way the current jail is,” Pittman said. “It’s not secure. The medical floor is not a medical floor at all. People are still lacking access to water, and women are still being victimized.”