Democrat challenger Dana Orwig will face Republican incumbent Jason Nelson in the November elections for a chance to represent District 87 in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
District 87 encompasses part of the western quadrant of Oklahoma City, from east of May Avenue west to Meridian Avenue, and from N.W. 16th Street north to Northwest Expressway.
Hoping to continue the policies he started in his first term, Nelson is running for re-election for his House seat.
Married to Lori Yost Nelson and with two children, Nelson worked for former Gov. Frank Keating during his eight years in office, including as his liaison to the state House.
“Going into this, I had a lot of experience that I thought would be helpful in terms of navigating the political process at the Capitol,” he said.
If re-elected to a second term, Nelson said the state budget and jobs are the two biggest issues next year.
“The temptation is to shore up the state budget on the backs of the small businesses; my position will be to fight that urge, whether it is increase regulation or increase taxes or fees on small businesses,” he said. “That is the last thing we need to do is add any kind of fees or taxes.”
Nelson said law enforcement and public safety are on the top of his budget priorities, which include mental health and substance abuse services funding.
“For $15 a day, you can have an individual in a robust program that keeps them in their job, keeps them in their home with their family and is a productive member of our community,” he said. “If they do not have that service, you can see those people dealing with law enforcement later in the day.”
Nelson is researching one bill for next session to ensure the state puts in a minimum amount of the education budget into the classroom.
“Everyone wants to increase funding on education. What I never hear people say is how much is enough and how much should go to the classroom. We should have some expectation of how much that is,” he said.
Through his legislation, Nelson said he is proposing a minimum of 65 percent of the public education funding be put into the classroom, which would include teachers, teachers’ salary, books, supplies and training.
Running against the incumbent is Orwig, a teacher and longtime District 87 resident.
Living in the district for 31 years with her husband, Steven, a Veterans Affairs physician, Orwig said she has always been interested in being involved in the political process. She said the state needs more bipartisanship.
“In Oklahoma, too much of our legislation is driven by narrow ideological interests and, in some cases, by large donors,” Orwig said. “More and more, we are failing to do the ‘back-to-the-basics’ work of state government and neglecting some of that in favor of others.”
As a teacher at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Orwig said she believes state educators need to be held to high standards but also need to be supported when necessary.
“We have got to have a first-class education system in the state, because it is important to become more attractive to businesses coming into the state,” she said. “We need people who are work-ready, and that means improving our graduation rates.”
While Orwig is a supporter of education, she said she has concerns with State Question 744, a constitutional amendment making the minimum education state budget allotment on average with Oklahoma’s surrounding states.
“I believe the idea behind it, and it is a valid argument that we need a competitive program, but I’m hearing concerns from other groups that, given the budget constraints that happened this year, I am concerned with the impact that may have with other vital state services,” she said.
Elections are Nov. 2. “Leighanne Manwarren
Top Rep. Jason Nelson
Bottom Dana Orwig