When the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Candidate Forum lineup was announced, it appeared that Democratic US Senate Candidate Abby Broyles might finally get her chance to share some screen time with longtime incumbent Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Oklahoma).
It was never going to be a debate, but Friday, it was less than even that. Inhofe, due to scheduling conflict as it was announced, instead chose to send in a pre-recorded video.
Inhofe used that time to congratulate Stillwater on retaining its air service, and saying “there is nothing more important than the race we’re in now.” But Inhofe wasn’t talking about his race against Broyles, he was encouraging Oklahomans to vote for President Donald Trump.
“I know our President Trump is sometimes difficult to listen to, but stop and think about it, less than a year ago we had the greatest economy, that’s because of this guy,” he said.
Inhofe also said it was unfair to blame Trump for the pandemic, and that we would at some point be able to put the pandemic “behind us.”
Broyles used her time to campaign on access to quality, affordable health care, education and propping up small businesses, which would include expanding rural broadband.
“I think our federal dollars should be going to our public school system,” she said.
Broyles also challenged the Senate on its priorities.
“Right now, the Senate’s only priority is cramming through the Supreme Court nominee, while our small business owners desperately need PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) funding,” she said.
She also managed to mention her latest campaign news, that she outraised Inhofe in the third quarter.
“It’s because people want change,” she said.
The forum also featured a message from former State Speaker of the House, Kris Steele, now a leader in the Yes on 805 campaign. State Representative District 34 candidates Rep. Trish Ranson (D-Stillwater) and challenger Dr. Aaron Means split screen time as did State Senate District 21 candidates Sen. Tom Dugger (R-Stillwater) and challenger Rick Dunham.
Steele used his time to re-emphasize how Oklahoma compares to the rest of the country on incarceration. State Question 805 would remove enhanced sentencing for repeat nonviolent offenses.
“Oklahoma now again has the highest overall incarceration rates of any state in the nation,” he said, adding “it’s a world
leader in women’s incarceration” and the highest in the country for African-Americans per capita.
“There’s no reason Oklahoma should be a world leader in incarceration,” he said. “The people who live in our state are not any worse than the people that live in Arkansas, New Mexico … especially Texas.
“People who commit nonviolent offenses would still go to prison.”
State House 34
In the state representative race, Ranson said she was running because there is still work to do with the core issues the state faced when she first chose to run following the teacher walkout. She said she wants to solidify the platform on public education and make sure the Legislature can fund Medicaid. She also wants to better address food insecurity.
Means also said education is a priority for him. He said he would immediately begin the framework for a bill that would prevent funds from being moved away from education. He said he would be pro-business, pro-active and would focus on public safety. He said he would not have a “learning curve” entering the capitol.
State Senate 21
Dugger used his time to highlight his committee appointments and the work he has done helping Oklahoma get into better financial shape in regards to the state budget.
“We’ve gotten ourselves into a financial situation that is better than it has been in awhile,” he said. “I’m not going to sit here and tell you it’s not a tough situation. It is. We have tough situation on financing every year. We go about that carefully every year. That’s why it’s so important, some of the committees that I’m on. And I’d like to indicate to those. That’s part of history, that’s part of who you are, and the five committees that I’ve been able to get on dictate and reflect the confidence that has been shown to me by my colleagues at the State Senate to help craft a better budget.”
Dugger said he didn’t miss a vote, and he was given high marks for his positions on child advocacy.
Dugger also pointed to his support of higher education, because he feels Oklahoma State University’s position in Stillwater continues to make it a strong selling point for economic expansion.
“The items of growth coming into our community will make a difference, because OSU is making a difference with its research,” he said.
Dunham first talked about the energy of his campaign, that it is “taking on a life of its own” because he believes they have a message that is resonating.
He said the main theme is “no one gets left behind.” He said people he has spoken to were “ready for someone to step up, lead from the front and take an active role.”
“Sen. Dugger, said in an interview, that he is waiting for your call, I will not be waiting for your call because I will be coming to you,” he said. Saying his style is juxtaposed to “one who prefers a more passive approach to community engagement, and myself, who prefers to take the bull by the horns.”
Dunham was the only candidate who finished in enough time to take questions. Moderator Bryan Langford-Loftis asked Dunham what he meant by Dunham’s plans for strengthening tech security. Dunham replied that Oklahoma Cyber Command does a good job protection infrastructure and key resources, but wanted there to be a focus on individuals who experience digital security threats.
“Who is getting left behind are average people,” he said. “I can’t tell you how many people who have been scammed out of their hard-earned money, typically are senior population. What I want to be able to do is provide money for Oklahoma Cyber Command to establish a permanent public outreach department that not only informs our citizens of the cyber security threats that are currently actively happening but how they can actually protect themselves.”