Sam Wargin Grimaldo (left) and Mark Mann (right) are running in the Democratic Primary for Senate District 46.
Sam Wargin Grimaldo, left, and Mark Mann, right, are running in the Democratic primary election for Senate District 46 in 2024. (NonDoc)

An attorney by day and Japanese antique motorcyclist by night, Sam Wargin Grimaldo is running against insurance agent and former Oklahoma City Public Schools board member Mark Mann, who has helped organize numerous charity events over the years. The two will vie for the Democratic nomination in Oklahoma’s June 18 primary, with the winner landing on November’s ballot alongside Republican Charles Barton and independent David Pilchman.

The candidates are running to succeed Senate Minority Leader Kay Floyd as her time in the Legislature ends because of term limits. Floyd (D-OKC) was elected in 2012 to the House of Representatives and in 2014 to the Senate District 46 post. Term limits prohibit Oklahoma legislators from seeking reelection after serving 12 years, and Floyd’s departure opens one of the few strongly Democratic districts in the Legislature.

As Floyd leaves her seat this year, the progression into a Senate seat feels “natural” for both Wargin Grimaldo and Mann, who said he has been working on the policy issues that are important to him since the 1990s.

“I’ve been on the school board, and when the seat came open, it just seemed like a natural thing to consider,” Mann said. “We need somebody to be a voice on these issues that moves things back to reality.”

Wargin Grimaldo said his roots in Senate District 46 motivated him to run for the seat.


Senate District 48

In open Senate District 48, Nice offers new blood as Johnson seeks old seat by Matt Patterson

“My life story has a footprint all over the district,” Wargin Grimaldo said. “I knew my perspective was valuable, because it represents a lot of the lived experience of people in my community and people all throughout Senate District 46.”

Both Wargin Grimaldo and Mann are expected to participate in a forum scheduled by the VOICE coalition for 4 p.m. Sunday, June 9, at First Unitarian Church, 600 N.W. 13th St. in Oklahoma City. House District 88 candidates are also scheduled to participate, and English to Spanish translation is expected to be available.

Senate District 46 covers central and southeast Oklahoma City. Early voting for the June 18 primary is slated for 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 13, and Friday, June 14, at the Oklahoma County Election Board. Early voting also is scheduled from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 15. 

Wargin Grimaldo: Make state schools superintendent nonpartisan

In his professional life, Wargin Grimaldo worked with the Latino Community Development Agency to provide youth and family programming before becoming a high school teacher for OKCPS. He took part in the 2018 teacher walkout, which he said exposed him to how state government has failed to provide adequate funding for a successful public education system. He said that experience led him to pursue a law degree.

During his time teaching, Wargin Grimaldo said he helped students and families navigate the school system.

“As a former public school teacher, public education is top of my priority list,” Wargin Grimaldo said. “It is important that we are fully funding it and fully supporting it.”

While such a change would be a tall task, Wargin Grimaldo said he would like to make the position of state superintendent of public instruction a nonpartisan elected office to shift the focus back to improving education instead of it being immersed in partisan politics.

Improving education is also a main priority for Mann, who served seven years on the OKCPS Board before resigning earlier this year to seek the Senate District 46 post. The owner of a Farmers Insurance agency, Mann previously worked for former State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sandy Garrett at the State Department of Education. His wife, Tonya, is an educator.

“If you want good public schools, you fund the good public schools. Oklahoma is [near the] bottom in terms of education funding,” Mann said. “No. 2 is recruiting and retaining teachers, because no matter how much money you put into a classroom, it’s only as good as having a good teacher in that classroom. We have to pay and respect our teachers and come up with a pay structure that will actually provide an opportunity for people to say, ‘I want to go into education.’”

Mann, a longtime leader within the Bricktown Rotary Club, said the task to develop Oklahoma’s workforce successfully begins in public schools.

“To get involved with workforce development is really starting at the high school level, continuing through adulthood by having programs available through CareerTech and other avenues that train students and adults to go into the workforce,” Mann said. “We’ve got a good CareerTech system that we need to integrate in the middle school and have kids get micro-credentialing in high school if they want to go into a trade.”

Mann: Do more to increase affordable housing

Mann outlined his views on health care starting with a goal to increase Medicaid reimbursements to doctors so patient access to health care will expand. Born in Muskogee and raised in Checotah, Mann said more must be done to recruit and retain health care professionals in the rural parts of the state.

Mann said access to mental health care — including drug and alcohol treatment programs — needs to be improved. Bringing up the topic of abortion, Mann said Oklahoma has the most stringent anti-abortion laws in the country and that he would stand up for women’s rights by fighting to make sure they can receive life-saving medical care.

“We have to stop the Legislature from trying to make health care decisions, in particular, health care decisions around a woman’s body,” Mann said. “It’s a scary place right now for a young woman in Oklahoma with no access to reproductive care, and we have to work on that.”

Mann said he also wants to work on ways to increase affordable housing in the state.

“The state needs to become a bigger player in helping counties and municipalities coordinate the federal dollars they received, adding some additional state dollars, to the focus on affordable housing initiatives,” Mann said.

To help address homelessness, Wargin Grimaldo also said he wants to provide additional incentives for the development of more affordable housing.

“We also address homelessness by ensuring that we’re fully funding substance use services, mental health services — making them a lot more accessible,” Wargin Grimaldo said. “In the interim, [we can] provide funding for shelters and make sure we’re not leaving any of our neighbors unhoused or unsheltered, especially when Oklahoma experiences extreme weather.”

Wargin Grimaldo, who pledges on his website to “fight for reproductive rights in a post-Roe America and defend health care for all,” said he also supports labor unions.

“Oklahoma was built on labor, and it still depends heavily on the labor force here,” he said. “A primary priority for me is to ensure that our labor unions are strong here and that we are providing protections for workers of all stripes.”

Another priority for Wargin Grimaldo involves increasing voter participation in Oklahoma. One way he hopes to achieve this goal is to move the voter registration deadline closer to the day of the election. He said he also wants to encourage participation with under-engaged communities.

As a member of the minority party in Oklahoma, Wargin Grimaldo addressed how he would work with Republicans in the GOP-dominated Legislature.

“The attitude I would take to working with colleagues across the aisle is that we’re going to have our disagreements, and whether what I want to happen occurs or not, I’m still going to continue to come back with a willingness to find compromise to find common ground,” he said.

Wargin Grimaldo said he wants to bring hope back to the Democratic Party in Oklahoma.

“We do that by engaging communities that have been left out of the conversation for so long,” he said. “[We must give] them that inspiration to participate, not just in voting, but in volunteering and donating to campaigns and informing themselves about what’s at stake in local politics and how that affects them directly.”

Mann said his tenure on OKC’s school board gives him the experience of knowing when to stand firm and when to compromise.

“Things at the Capitol over the last several years have become so partisan and polarized,” he said. “There are things I call my non-negotiables: a woman’s right to choose, public school dollars going to public schools and not vouchers, LGBTQ rights. I’m not negotiating on any of that. The rest of the stuff we deal with, we’ve got to get out of our partisanship and find the middle ground that we can all agree to and move the state forward.”