Mark Stonecipher is running for a third term as Ward 8’s representative on the OKC City Council, but this time around he’ll be challenged by a former mayoral candidate and a member of the Muscogee Nation who has her own ideas for the city and the ward’s future.
Ward 8 stretches across much of northwest Oklahoma City, including the Putnam City Schools District and the Memorial Road-Quail Springs Mall area where several companies have corporate headquarters.
Voters in Oklahoma City wards 2, 5 and 6 will also head to the polls Tuesday, Feb. 14, for the city’s primary election. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent support, a general election between the top two finishers will be held April 4.
NonDoc sent questionnaires to all of the candidates in Ward 8. Their responses were used in compiling this preview of the election.
Mark Stonecipher (incumbent)
Stonecipher called being a member of the City Council one of the highlights of his life. He said giving back to a city that has provided for him is among the biggest reasons he decided to run for another term.
“This city has given so much to me, so I am always excited to give back,” Stonecipher wrote. “Every day I serve on the City Council, the more effective I am in advocating for the needs of our people. It is this experience that is helping to get Lone Oak Park developed, implementing new youth sports facilities, improving street conditions, and prioritizing police and fire service. As vice chairman of the water trust, I am now very involved in our water infrastructure discussions and know that another term is needed to secure that vital resource for the future growth of our city through 2060 and beyond.”
A shareholder at the law firm Fellers Snider, Stonecipher has also proven to be an effective fundraiser for his reelection bid. He has raised about $187,000 in his bid for a third term, more than any other City Council candidate in any ward, according to campaign reports. Warne has raised about $20,000, and Urbanic has not filed an ethics report.
If his bid is successful, Stonecipher wrote that he would focus on public safety during his next term. In November, he was one of three councilmen to introduce and then withdraw a controversial proposal involving the criminalization of homelessness.
He said the city is on the right track when it comes to police and fire resources thanks to past initiatives, though that effort is ongoing.
“Pooling our resources so we can have protection from fire or crime and a shared infrastructure are the original reasons cities were created,” he wrote. “We simply must meet these needs before branching into other worthwhile initiatives. That is why I was proud to actively support the Better Streets, Safer City initiative that is adding 57 new firefighters and 129 additional police officers while also undertaking the most significant street improvement package in our history.”
Of the most pressing issues facing the city beyond public safety, Stonecipher said keeping partisan politics out of city government and community dialogue is as critical to the city’s future as it was in its past.
“Together, we have created an OKC where families benefit from growing businesses,” Stonecipher wrote. “This does not happen by accident. The too often unheralded key to this success is our ability to keep DC-style politics out of our city and to instead build a city through cooperation and consensus. No city in America has a better working relationship between city government officials, business leaders, and community advocates. We must continue to nourish these relationships and not allow division and DC-style politics to distract us from our focus on the city’s core needs.”
And one of those core needs will likely be a new arena for the Thunder. Stonecipher is in favor of a public-private partnership for a new facility, owing to the success of the publicly financed Paycom Center, which helped the city secure an NBA team.
“Having the Oklahoma City Thunder has changed our image not just nationally, but globally,” he said. “We are a Big League City and we want to stay that way. The reality is it will take community investment to ensure the long-term tenure of the team and I would certainly welcome and encourage the team to aid us in this investment.”
Urbanic ran for mayor of Oklahoma City in 2022, losing to David Holt by a wide margin. Two years later, he’s back with a bid for Ward 8 on the City Council.
Urbanic did not respond to NonDoc’s questionnaire, instead pointing to his campaign website that outlines a number of his priorities if elected. At the top of the list: the renaming of Lake Hefner.
“The Hefner name is now associated with racism, hatred and bigotry,” Urbanic wrote on his website.
Urbanic and conservative provocateur Carol Hefner clashed during the 2022 mayoral campaign when both were candidates. The lake is named after former Oklahoma City Mayor Robert Hefner, who served in the 1930s and 1940s.
Other priorities include fixing roads, smart traffic light systems, a housing-first approach to homelessness and demolition of the old Oklahoma City Police Department headquarters, among others. As of Feb. 7, Urbanic had yet to file a campaign finance report.
Warne is a lifelong resident of Oklahoma and a citizen of the Muscogee Nation. Warne wrote that her decision to run was in part influenced by experiences in the community with her job as a dietician and as a volunteer for several organizations that address food sovereignty, education, social justice and the arts.
“These experiences in the community have informed my top priorities to include improving infrastructure, youth and community programs, public safety, and representation for
Ward 8. Oklahoma City is a diverse community that deserves representation that reflects that and embraces it,” Warne wrote. “I believe running is winning. Regardless of the election outcome, I hope that putting myself out there and laying the groundwork will make it much easier for another Indigenous woman to run after me.”
Among her biggest priorities if elected, Warne discussed prioritizing beautification efforts in Ward 8 through public art, expanding bus routes and building a youth center. Warne said none of the city’s youth centers are within Ward 8’s boundaries.
“As the wife of an educator, I know communities thrive when we invest in our youth,” she wrote. “Our youth are our future, and we must nurture their curiosity. As Ward 8’s city councilperson, I will fight for these critical investments to serve all our children. This ward is unique in that it encompasses four school districts. I want to work toward the expansion of the OKCGo2.0 program to all public high school graduates in Oklahoma City. By investing in young people now, we have the opportunity to retain those young people in the future.”
Among the biggest issues facing the city in the near future is the construction of a new arena for the Oklahoma City Thunder. An official proposal is expected this year. Warne wrote that the Thunder are an integral part of the community, but that any public money that would go toward an arena should be carefully scrutinized.
“While we would love to have a new arena for a franchise that gives so much to the people of Oklahoma, we have to consider the community’s short- and long-term interests,” she wrote. “We have seen this repeatedly across the country, where promises are made and broken. The last thing I want is for the taxpayers to shoulder the burden of funding a new arena, as seen in Miami with the Marlins. There needs to be genuine accountability measures. We cannot afford a handout that comes at the expense of our constituents, especially in a time of economic uncertainty.”
Across the rest of the city, public safety, homelessness and mental health are among the most pressing issues, she wrote.
“We must adopt a housing-first initiative,” she wrote. “Housing first does not mean housing only. I believe all people deserve access to healthy and affordable food. A lack of access to food adversely affects our community’s safety and health.”
(Correction: This article was updated at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 11, to correct a typo in its headline.)