Rogers and Tulsa County residents voting in the Senate District 2 general election will choose either a public school teacher or an account manager for a Tulsa heritage company to be their next state senator. The race could also affect a Republican Caucus vote to determine who leads the Oklahoma State Senate for the next two years.
With Sen. Marty Quinn (R-Claremore) term-limited, the seat representing the southern half of Rogers County and part of Tulsa County is open to the two Claremore residents: Ally Seifried, 30, and Jennifer Esau, 48.
Seifried gained the Republican nomination Aug. 23, when she defeated controversial conservative Jarrin Jackson in the runoff.
The two had emerged from a field of four candidates. Jackson had drawn national attention for viral campaign antics that included posting a video of himself shooting a printer on which he had written “Dominion,” a reference to voting machines. Seifried has run a more understated campaign, calling herself a “Trump Republican” on her website and a “compassionate conservative” in a previous interview with NonDoc.
Esau was the only Democrat to file for SD 2. A special education teacher at Will Rogers Junior High School, she also ran for the seat in 2018, receiving 37 percent of the vote against Quinn.
“I’ve just looked at the hardship I’ve been through with trying to teach during this time, and what my fellow teachers have been through, and things are obviously not any better,” Esau said. “And so it was challenging to think of doing this again, but every day I’ve gotten to work, it’s like a reminder of why someone has to step up, someone has to stand up for these kids and these teachers and our community.”
Seifried gained experience at the Capitol as an executive assistant in 2016 and 2017 for former Sen. Dan Newberry (R-Tulsa), according to her LinkedIn page. She said her family owns eight small businesses in the construction, chiropractic, accounting, veterinary, heat and air, printing and restaurant industries. Currently, she is an account manager for Müllerhaus Legacy, a Tulsa company that creates custom history books and projects to preserve “family and business heritage.” She said she plans to stay with the company if she wins the Senate District 2 seat.
“I think you combine my business experience, some of my political experience, and just basic community knowledge, and I really want to go and serve to make a difference for Senate District 2,” Seifried said.
If she wins in November, Esau would be required by state statute to step away from teaching in public schools during the Senate’s four-year term.
Taxes and vouchers
Since her runoff victory, which she called “a win for the entire community and Senate District 2,” Seifried said her biggest issues are still the economy and inflation.
“[They are] still the No. 1 issue hurting Oklahomans and the thing that I hear the most about,” Seifried said. “Unfortunately, it’s just continuing to have a negative impact on our lives.”
Esau, who sits on the Oklahoma Education Association board of directors, said the biggest issue facing the state is education.
“The biggest thing is just staffing right now,” Esau said. “Having certified teachers in the classrooms and just the support — paraprofessional support. We’re just short.”
To address that issue and others in education, Esau said schools simply need more money.
“It’s having infrastructure, having the people — enough staff members — having what we need, and it all goes back to money,” Esau said.
If she wins the seat, Seifried said she would support eliminating the state sales tax on groceries, a plan Gov. Kevin Stitt and legislative leaders have debated this year, to help Oklahomans dealing with inflation.
“I want people to keep more of their money,” Seifried said. “So yes, lowering taxes, I think, is a great way to make sure that whenever you’re losing money through no fault of your own at the grocery store, ‘Hey, let’s find a way to let you keep more of yours as a way to alleviate some of the pinch.'”
Like most existing Democrats serving in the Legislature, Esau also said she supports eliminating the state sales tax on groceries.
“I think we should do what we can to help hard-working Oklahomans,” Esau said. I support grocery tax relief. My only concern is to make sure we replace income for our municipalities. We have to protect vital services in our communities responsibly.”
Esau said she thinks her job as teacher has provided perspective that would help her at the Capitol.
“Schools are like a microcosm of society, of our community,” Esau said. “When you understand what’s going on in the school, you understand what’s going on in the community. (…) For every problem that we have, you can show how education would be a solution.”
Esau said she opposes school vouchers, a proposed system in which the state would provide monetary stipends to parents to assist with the cost of private or homeschooling options. Some Republicans — including Stitt, state superintendent candidate Ryan Walters and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat (R-OKC) — have been vocal supporters of creating a voucher system.
“I will fight any attempt to have vouchers,” Esau said. “There are choices for Oklahoma students, and vouchers will kill our rural schools.”
Seifried did not mention any specific education goals or plans she has if elected, but she did decry Oklahoma’s national education rankings.
“There’s no reason that we’re ranked where we are,” Seifried said. “Our kids are great. They’re smart, they’re bright, we’ve got great teachers who are serving their districts and their communities. And we all want education to succeed. We need it to succeed, really.”
Asked if she supports a school voucher program, Seifried did not answer the question directly.
“I support parental rights and believe it can be accomplished without harming public schools,” Seifried said by text. “I look forward to working to create excellence in education for all children.”
As they both prepare for the November election, Esau called herself the “opposite” of Seifried.
“I am pro-choice,” Esau said. “I believe that just because you’re pro-choice doesn’t mean you’re pro-abortion. It means that you trust women to make health care decisions for themselves. (Seifried is) for vouchers. I am absolutely not for vouchers.”