Democrat Larry Bush wants to address health care and corruption at the Oklahoma State Capitol, and he believes his business experience has helped him learn about people from all walks of life.
Republican Dusty Deevers supports the Second Amendment, wants an economy that works for everyone in southwest Oklahoma, and believes schools need to be stopped from promoting “leftist” indoctrination.
The matchup is a clash of ideals and priorities in the open Senate District 32 seat, which was vacated this summer when John Michael Montgomery took a job running the Lawton-Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce.
Bush, an insurance agent who has lost two previous bids for the Oklahoma Legislature, is hoping to flip SD 32 from red to blue in December. Prior to Montgomery’s election, the seat was held by former Democrat Sen. Randy Bass from 2006 through 2018.
Deevers, a conservative pastor whose electoral success or failure could affect the Senate Republican Caucus’ looming vote for a new leader, hopes to continue the GOP trend in a district that includes Fort Sill, a key Army artillery training center, as well as Cameron University, and a Goodyear tire plant, among other business entities. It also includes much of the Wichita National Wildlife Refuge.
The special Dec. 12 general election will earn either Deevers or Bush the rest of Montgomery’s unexpired term, which runs through November 2026. The deadline to request absentee ballots is Monday, Nov. 27. Early voting is slated for 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 7, and Friday, Dec. 8, at county election boards.
Both Bush and Deevers agreed to telephone interviews with NonDoc ahead of the election. Here’s a look at both candidates seeking SD 32, which covers the north and west sides of Lawton, as well as the communities of Cache, Elgin and Fletcher.
Larry Bush: OU football ‘helped me become a leader’
While Larry Bush owns and operates an insurance and real estate business in southwest Oklahoma, his name may be more recognizable as a former University of Oklahoma defensive back. Bush finished his college football career in 1995, playing for the ultra-weird and mostly unsuccessful Howard Schnellenberger in his only season leading the Sooners.
Since then, Bush has carved out a career in private enterprise. Bush has run for the Oklahoma Legislature twice before in House District 62, losing in both the 2018 and 2020 general elections.
He’s hoping this run will be different.
“We still have issues that I ran on before that are important and need to be addressed,” Bush said. “I saw an opportunity to continue that fight in education and in health care and with the corruption we have from politicians in Oklahoma City. It’s many of the same issues I ran on before that we’re still seeing today, and when the seat came open, I thought it would be something worth doing.”
Bush said he believes his day-to-day work operating insurance and real estate businesses allows him to meet people from all cross sections of life.
“When I meet people in business or with the customers I have, they come from all parties,” he said. “They’re Democrats and independents and Republicans. I don’t ask them what party they vote for, I just try and meet their needs. It’s the same for everyone else. I would represent them the same way I represent and serve my customers in business. I think all of that has given me a pretty unique experience, and I think that would be beneficial in politics, too.”
Bush said education funding and job creation are among the issues facing SD 32 now and in the future.
“I think we have a lot of people that have come here for jobs, and we need to continue that growth, but I think all of that goes back to education,” he said. “Business owners look at coming here, and then we continue to be lagging behind other areas in public schools, and I think that makes a difference. Business-wise, we’re among the lowest per capita in the state, and it’s continued to be that way since I got involved in politics. We need to have that investment in public education across the board. I think that will help our local economy by attracting corporations to come here.”
Bush conducted an interview with Lawton TV station KSWO earlier this month and said another area of his focus as a senator would be expanding health care options for women.
And while it may be an uphill climb as a Democrat in a GOP-leaning district, Bush said he can always lean on his football experience, especially during that last year under Schnellenberger.
“We had a trainer, Joe Juraszek, during that time,” Bush said. “And we had a couple of near-death experiences, because the coaches wanted us to be like camels. We didn’t get a lot of water during practices. Joe would say to us, ‘If you can get through this, you can get through anything.’ He was right. And I think having the opportunity to play for the best college football program in the country helped me become a leader and someone who can work with a lot of people from different backgrounds.”
Bush has been endorsed by Republican Jennifer Ellis who ran in the Oct. 12 GOP primary.
Dusty Deevers: ‘I am going to fight for people’s life, liberty and property’
Running as a “constitutional conservative,” Deevers is a church pastor and business owner who has preached around the country about his desire to abolish abortion.
In a telephone interview, Deevers said he chose to run for SD 32 in 2020 after seeing the national, state and local responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Deevers said he made the decision after much prayer and consultation with fellow members of Grace Community Church in Elgin.
“After everything that we went through in 2020, I knew that good men had to stand up and do something to protect life, liberty and property according to the Constitution and the word of God,” Deevers said. “So, when the seat came open in my district, we prayed about it and went to my church and prayed about it, and after much thought and prayer, the church commissioned me to go and love God and others by seeking to legislate according to the Constitution and the word of God and secure liberty for ourselves and our society. I see on the left there seems to be a despising of our Constitution, and on the right, it is often undervalued. With that being said, I think our government is fundamentally broken and we need much recovery and reformation.”
Deevers said that, from what he sees in southwest Oklahoma and throughout the rest of the state and country, the economy does not work for average people because of too much government intrusion.
“On the economic side, people are floundering under the fiscal policies of the government and its overreach,” Deevers said. “It’s causing high inflation. Gas prices are skyrocketing. Grocery prices are astronomical. Farmers are seeing difficulties,” Deevers said. “We need transparency and accountability on how public money is being spent. I’m convinced that if we open up our various state budgets to taxpayers, we will see where the money is being spent, and we can reallocate and get some of the federal overreach out of our state.”
Deevers said enhanced transparency would also benefit public education.
“We’re being taxed too much in all different kinds of ways, and one of the most important things we can do for education is transparency and accountability on the Department of Education budgets so the stakeholders, including parents and administrators, can see how our local districts need to spend their money rather than a one-size-fits-all approach,” he said.
In a recent interview with Lawton TV station KSWO, Deevers said he opposes no-fault divorce, which has allowed men and women to escape mentally and physically abusive marriages. He reiterated his opposition to what he considers LGBTQ indoctrination in schools and the teaching of critical race theory.
“Some say it’s godless. But it’s not that there is not a God behind this thinking. I don’t think it’s the God who would strengthen homes and families or build an education for our children,” Deevers said. “Historically, that’s the God of socialism. The God who has seen to the destruction of millions and millions of lives, whether it be Pol Pot or Mao Zedong or others. Stalinists, you know.”
Despite his conservative beliefs, Deevers said he would be able to work with those in his own party who may be less conservative on some issues and those on the other side of the aisle.
“I think there are certain principles that transcend partisanship,” Deevers said. “One of those is equal protection under the law. There are principles like our Constitution that were founded on life, liberty and property. Those things are transcendent truths that I think have been trampled in all kinds of ways. I think both sides of the aisle should be able to come together and find equal weights and measures.”
Deevers said voters should pick him for the SD 32 seat because of his willingness to fight for their futures.
“I think every person values their own lives and a future that they want for themselves and for their children,” Deevers said. “I am going to fight for people’s life, liberty and property, and for what the framers established with this nation that became such a force, probably the greatest nation that has arisen among men, and it is being threatened at every turn. I will fight to get government off people’s backs and out of their pockets.”
Of the three Republicans he defeated in the SD 32 primary election, none has endorsed Deevers. Ellis endorsed Bush, Elgin Mayor JJ Francais declined to comment on the Dec. 12 general election, and Dr. Jean Hausheer stated she would not endorse Bush because she is a Republican.