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May 1, 2014

Candidate Dorman says Fallin ‘out of touch’

ENID, Okla. — As governor, Joe Dorman said he would put every public policy solution on the table for discussion.

From water to education, the Democratic candidate from Rush Springs said he wants to have that discussion with voters.

“Nothing’s going to be, in my opinion, taboo to discuss and try to come up with some policy to help Oklahomans,” Dorman said Thursday in an interview with the Enid News & Eagle. “Nothing’s off the table. We’ve got to look at the topic and come up with the best solution.”

Republican Gov. Mary Fallin has two opponents in the GOP primary June 24: Chad Moody, of Oklahoma City, and Dax Ewbank of Guthrie. There also are three independents running: Richard Prawdzienski, of Edmond; Joe Sills, of Oklahoma City; and Kimberly Willis, of Oklahoma City. The general election is Nov. 4.

While he doesn’t support the Common Core State Standards Initiative, the education policy championed by the National Governors Association, Dorman said it should be left up to schools to decide if it’s best for them.

“If the local school district wants to keep that, then that’s going to be their decision. This should be a local decision on the standards they put in place,” he said.

What Oklahoma should focus on, he added, are state-developed policies and standards created with the help of university departments of education. Dorman also said state budget negotiators should spend more on teachers and classrooms.

“I have no problem with national suggestions or levels to attempt to attain, but our biggest problem in Oklahoma is we’ve shortchanged education. We’ve had elected officials down there that have focused on a one-size-fits-all approach,” he said.

His plan includes a pay raise for teachers and funding for remediation.

Dorman was the only Democrat to file for office. Since there is no primary election challenger, he said he is relieved to focus on campaigning to a broader audience instead of just registered Democrats.

“It lets me focus on the key part and that’s the campaign against Mary Fallin,” he said.

He has a long way to go. According to fundraising data reported to the Oklahoma State Ethics Commission, Dorman has raised just more than a quarter-million dollars since his exploratory committee was formed in December. In the first three months of 2014 alone, Fallin raised more than $518,000, leaving her with an excess of $1.7 million to spend this summer.

“I haven’t felt anxious yet,” Dorman said. “We’re working on the fundraising.”

The problem he expects to face is a demoralized Democratic Party that’s suffered dramatic losses in the Legislature and the executive branch. Four years ago, Democrats held nearly every statewide-elected seat. Then Republicans took them all.

“People in the state are worried the pendulum has not swung back — that a Democrat would have a tough time,” he said. “Our polling numbers have shown different. The response we’re getting is definitely different.”

Voters, Dorman said, want someone who will work with lawmakers across the aisle.

“They essentially want someone to be the adult in the room,” he said. “Mary is not near as popular as she thinks she is. She’s going to face stiff opposition in this election and it’s going to come from those voters who are paying attention and are voting based on the issues.”

He did not share his own polling data, but said the only other issue as important to voters this year is education.

Dorman has served 12 years in the state House and cannot run for re-election. He briefly considered returning to Grady County to serve as county commissioner, but his statewide ballot campaign to implement a $500 million bond issue to pay for safe rooms and shelters in schools convinced him to seek higher office.

“Across the board, Democrats, Republicans and independents were dissatisfied with the way things were running, business as usual, at the Capitol,” he said.

The petition drive essentially faltered when the state attorney general altered the wording that would be used on the ballot, but Dorman said organizers could begin another drive in May.

The No. 1 issue he has with Fallin is that she does not represent Oklahomans’ best interests, he said.

“I think she’s out of touch with reality,” Dorman said, criticizing Fallin for not making sure criminal justice reforms were implemented and rejecting the Medicaid expansion that was part of the Affordable Care Act.

“That’s money Oklahomans have paid in. It’s money that should come back that we’re refusing,” he said.

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