Three candidates will make up the ballot for the Democratic primary race for District 93 state representative.
Voters will choose between Jeff Packham, Wanda Jo Peltier and Wilfredo Santos-Rivera. The winner of the primary will advance to the main election against Republican incumbent Mike Christian.
Jeff Packham, 40, has seen his share of politics. He was a Capitol reporter for 10 years and said he has seen progression in Oklahoma politics.
After graduating from Putnam City High School, he enrolled in several Oklahoma colleges before getting a degree in public relations from the University of Central Oklahoma. He hopes to bring change to the district.
“This is one of the poorer districts, and a lot of retirees here think the government is letting them down,” said Packham, a former Capitol coordinator for The Journal Record Legislative Report. “When you see cuts to programs, I think you can see some of that going on.”
One of Packham’s biggest concerns is education.
“A lot are concerned about education here,” he said. “I’ve heard the drop-out rates are around 60 percent, and that’s too high. I don’t think the problems are being addressed. We need to try to figure out how to get the kids a future instead of just combining schools.”
If elected, he hopes to stand up for his district, which he describes as “neglected.”
“When I’m walking around, you can see there are a lot of people who feel down and ignored, but they are hard-working people,” he said. “I feel like standing up for them at the Capitol.”
Wanda Jo Peltier
Wanda Jo Peltier, 76, is no stranger to politics, either. She served as a member of the state House of Representatives for 10 years from 1987 to 1997. After a little convincing, she said she decided to run again.
“A number of community leaders called me and I told them ‘no,'” she said. “My husband has been 110 percent supportive, and I couldn’t just go off and leave him. I agonized over my duty versus my desire. My husband told me I’m always working hard on something, and it wouldn’t be any different.”
Peltier signed up for the race on the last available day to file for candidacy. If she is elected, she hopes to examine the issues pertaining to her district.
“What I mostly do is protect my constituents,” she said. “I don’t file a bunch of bills and stuff, but I do read them religiously, every bill. Sometimes they arrive hot off the printers. It’s distressful because I’ve found all kinds of ‘wooly boogers,’ as we call them, in the bills.”
With a bachelor’s in English from Oklahoma Baptist University, a master’s in English from the University of Kansas and 10 years of experience under her belt, Peltier believes she is qualified for the position.
“Thirty-thousand people have a lot of problems, and I take each one as my own and do my best to solve it,” she said. “I’m a good public servant, and that’s what qualifies me. The people want one of the folks, and I’m one of the folks.”
Wilfredo Santos-Rivera said his priorities for state government involve strengthening organization in several areas.
The 65-year-old Puerto Rico native believes legislative productivity is too low and could be fixed by reorganizing the branches to resemble Nebraska’s unicameral legislature.
“I think we need to bring creativity to the democratic process and set an example from the top by downsizing government,” he said. “(Nebraska’s government is) working fine “¦ we would benefit from it. We could get more productivity, time, space, all kinds of savings.”
Santos-Rivera, a former District 7 representative on the Oklahoma City Public Schools Board of Education, is also a proponent of education. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Puerto Rico, and received a master’s in school administration from the University of Phoenix. It’s his philosophy that education is the future, and an educated workforce is critical to state success. Two decades ago, he came to Oklahoma City, where he said he became an advocate for the people. He believes his educational background and experience qualify him as a candidate.
“People who know me know I’ve been in the trenches for the community, pro bono, for the last 20 years,” he said. “I’d continue to bring this energy and creative ideas to the Legislature. They know that I’m not a ‘business as usual’ person, and I will not be rubber-stamping special interests. I think that’s what we need, leadership, which we are lacking in House District 93.”
Santos-Rivera said this race is very important to Oklahoma and believes the primary victor will win the race.
“If I’m the winner, I think my Democratic colleagues will back me,” he said. “If I’m not, I’ll back them. This primary is important for all of us, and productive and educated labor is and must be the cornerstone of American democracy. We should be what we’re capable of being, not No. 47 (in education).”
Who can vote
District 93 is located north of Interstate 240 from May Avenue to Western Avenue until it reaches Grand Boulevard. It also stretches northeast to about Shields Boulevard until S.W. Ninth Street.
Voting in the primary is July 27. To avoid a runoff, one Democratic primary candidate must receive more than 50 percent of the vote. The eventual nominee will face incumbent Rep. Christian.
Christian, who is under investigation, dropped a state Senate bid and announced that he would focus on re-election to his House seat earlier this month. Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater is reportedly investigating an alleged deal to create a state job for another senator if she agreed not to seek re-election. Christian claims he is “not guilty” of any allegations. “Luke Atkinson