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House District 73 Democratic primary
Darrell Knox, left, and Ron Stewart, right, are running in the Tulsa-area Oklahoma House District 73 Democratic primary in 2024. (NonDoc)

The Democratic primary for Oklahoma House District 73 features Ron Stewart, a firefighter, and Darrell Knox, a restaurant owner, vying for the open seat.

The position is open because Rep. Regina Goodwin (D-Tulsa) declined to run for another term, opting instead to pursue the open Senate District 11 seat, which encompasses much of the same north Tulsa area as HD 73.

Knox did not respond to multiple phone calls, text messages and Facebook messages seeking comment about his campaign. He owns Sweet Lisa’s Cafe in downtown Tulsa and is a Muscogee Nation citizen, according to a Tulsa World endorsement of his campaign.

Stewart says on his website that he has spent 18 years as a firefighter, with 11 of those years working within the HD 73 boundaries. He also says he is trained as a paramedic.

In an interview, Stewart said he has been working toward a run for the Legislature for years.

“By the time 2019 going into 2020 came about, I had pretty much decided that if I was going to be the change that I wanted to see, then I would have to step out on a limb and get into politics,” Stewart said. “(It was) not something that I saw myself doing, but the more I learned about it, the more I realized this was a way that I could serve my community and a way that I could move it forward.”

Stewart said he got involved in organizations like Leadership Tulsa and Leadership Native Oklahoma to take courses on politics and running for office. Stewart is a citizen of the Choctaw Nation.

“I basically took four years — four and a half years — to kind of educate myself on how I can be an effective legislator and what it would kind of take,” Stewart said.

Knox’s website implies that his candidacy is focused on economic development.

“Darrell has worked to put the people of north Tulsa first. In the context of community leadership and development, individuals like Darrell often emerge as dedicated figures who prioritize the well-being and progress of their localities,” according to his bio page. “In places like District 73, such commitment can manifest in various forms, from advocating for better infrastructure to ensuring that the voices of the residents are heard in larger civic discussions. It’s the efforts of these individuals that can drive positive change and foster a sense of unity and purpose within a community.”

No other candidates filed to run for House District 73, so the winner of the Democratic primary will win the seat outright. For the June 18 primary election, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., with early voting concluding 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 15.

Both candidates have said on their Facebook pages they will participate in a debate scheduled for 5 p.m. Saturday at the Black Economic Expo in Tulsa. Fliers for the debate indicate it will be live-streamed on Facebook.

Candidates focus on economic development, education

If elected, Stewart said he wants to address what he sees as the biggest issues facing HD 73: a lack of infrastructure and economic development. Additionally, Stewart said he wants to improve health care and education in the area.

“We have a disparity between life expectancy when you talk about our north and south dividing line, which is Admiral (Place) in Tulsa,” Stewart said. “When you look at the life expectancy south of Admiral and north of Admiral, we’re still currently at a nine-to-10-year differential, and so access to quality health care is something else that is paramount for our district.”

On his website, Stewart says he wants to protect voting rights, support small businesses, increase education funding and increase access to health care. He also mentions criminal justice reform.

“Our prisons are often overfilled and understaffed, and we continue to experience crime rates that are above the national average while our neighbors are being killed in the streets,” Stewart’s campaign team wrote. “What our Legislature is doing isn’t working. Ronald will work to champion innovative, data-driven policies that will keep Tulsa safe and healthy.”

Knox lists education, economy and marijuana as his three issues on his website, saying he wants to advocate for increased school funding and promote technology in the classroom. His website statements on “economy” and “marijuana” are less specific.

“The topic of marijuana decriminalization is a complex and multifaceted issue that involves considerations of law, public health and social justice. Decriminalization efforts often aim to reduce the penalties associated with marijuana possession and use, which proponents argue can lead to reduced incarceration rates and the redirection of law enforcement resources to more serious crimes,” Knox says. “Additionally, such efforts may also include discussions on the potential medical benefits of marijuana and the impact of regulation and taxation on the economy. It’s a subject that continues to evolve with ongoing research and shifting public opinion.”

As he campaigns for the HD 73 seat, Stewart said he is aware he will be part of the minority party in the Legislature if he wins but that he understands how to work across the aisle in pursuit of his goals.

“I’m a Democratic candidate — we’re currently a super-minority,” Stewart said. “When you’re talking about moving legislation forward, you have to be able to have some bipartisan relationships to be able to pinpoint those areas of convergence so that when you’re moving things forward for District 73, you’re also moving things forward for the state of Oklahoma.”