Thursday evening, June 9, the League of Women Voters held a public forum for Senate District 39 candidates at the OU Tulsa campus. Senate District 39 is currently held by term limited Brian Crain, which makes SD39 an open seat.
Three candidates participated in the forum – Dave Rader, Amanda Teegarden and Alan Staab, approximately 40-45 people attended the forum. The questions came from the audience, read by the moderator and the time keeper kept everything running smoothly. The League of Women Voters did a great job and a great service to our community by hosting this event.
The questions asked were very thoughtful and the answers provided insight into the differences between the candidates. The first question was “were the candidates familiar with the legislative process and if not, who would they look to for guidance?” Staab answered first, stating that he would rely on friends and other legislators to educate him in the legislative process. Rader said he will find like-minded individuals within the legislature to teach and mentor him, while Teegarden reminded the audience that through her work as a citizen activist she has already spent most of the last ten years learning Oklahoma policy and procedures for herself.
On education and budget issues, all agreed that these are the top issues affecting our state. Rader is in favor of allowing school boards to raise the debt bonding limit from 10% to 15%. Teegarden explained that currently 51% of the state budget goes to education, appearing as a single line item on the budget; she would like to carve out a dedicated funding stream for classroom instructors and require transparency about all sources of revenue and education expenditures, which currently appear to be top heavy in administrative costs. Staab was in favor of increasing the general budget item for education and was fully supportive of the cigarette tax as well.
Of course, the Boren 1% sales tax was brought up. Both Staab and Teegarden were opposed to the regressive tax. Rader’s response was non-committal in that he said it didn’t matter how he votes and would not answer with his opinion on the matter.
When asked about mental health in Oklahoma, Rader didn’t give a clear, straight answer. He did say that maybe Insure Oklahoma was the way to go but that all options must be considered. Staab was in favor of expanding Medicaid for the purpose of receiving more federal funding and as stated earlier, he favors the cigarette tax. Teegarden is opposed to Medicaid expansion due to the current national debt and the fact that there is no money to fund expansion, and that she supports more health care freedom of choice in Oklahoma.
One question was regarding their opinion as to what was the most significant piece of legislation from this last legislative session. Teegarden stated that SB1552 was probably the most significant bill of the session and that it was unfortunate that Gov. Fallin had vetoed it. Rader was in agreement with Teegarden in regard to SB1552. Staab voiced his support of the cigarette tax and touted it as the most important bill (it was defeated).
When asked how each candidate would build consensus with their fellow legislators, Staab mentioned his ability to build relationships, and stated that if he wins the election, he and his wife will move to OKC and purchase season tickets to the Thunder games to represent the people of Tulsa. Rader cited his experience as a player and coach to begin consensus building. Teegarden stated that finding consensus is not the goal of a legislator, that there is usually a right and wrong and that, “legislation is either good or bad. The job of a state senator is to uphold the oath of office, and defend and support both the US and state constitutions.”
It was a good evening with engaged citizens. The evening offered insight on the candidates of SD39, some similar, some vastly different.