University of Oklahoma law student Emily Virgin, a Democrat, and self-employed lawn care professional Kent Hunt, a Republican, are running for Oklahoma House District 44’s seat, left open by term-limited Rep. Bill Nations, D-Norman.
Encompassing much of the University of Oklahoma Norman campus, both candidates for District 44 said they hope to improve education for the state.
Gaining political experience through being involved in her grandfather’s county commissioner campaigns, Virgin, 23, said it wasn’t until working with organizations in the community through the law school that she decided to run.
After researching, Virgin said she found the government spending billions of dollars and giving away tax credits.
“It was kind of a wake-up call for me to see how these budget cuts were having an affect on vulnerable populations,” she said. “I never have been the type of person to just sit by and watch these kinds of things happen.”
Virgin said she would like to get rid of tax credit abuses through establishing a system that creates business accountability in determining which tax credits are being used appropriately.
“I think, all too often, we try to use (tax credits) as an incentive when the businesses were going to create those jobs anyway, so I want to make sure they are working in sufficient fashion,” she said.
Virgin said she and House District 45 Rep. Wallace Collins, D-Norman, have discussed teaming up to work out the tax credit issue.
Another priority for Virgin’s campaign is education.
Through increasing funding, taking care of teachers and making sure money goes to the classrooms, Virgin said focusing on education would help improve Oklahoma’s quality of life.
After talking to teachers, she said the state should place less emphasis on standardized tests and give educators more freedoms with their curriculum.
“It is a hard balance to acquire because you have to have some sort of measurement of how we are doing, but, at the same time, a teacher needs to be able do their own thing,” Virgin said.
Running against Virgin is Hunt, 53, who said he decided to run after “a whole lot of soul-searching.”
“We have a whole lot of problems in this state, and most of them could and should have been addressed years ago and have not been. The sheer frustration of that is the main reason why I wanted to get in,” he said.
One of the issues Hunt said he would like to address is consolidating the more than 500 school districts in the state down to 80 to 100 school districts.
“It is absolutely ridiculous how much money we spend on administrative functions,” he said. “We need to redirect that money ” which is millions and millions of dollars ” to the teachers and the students.”
Along with consolidation, Hunt said he would like to see state programs where a citizen can donate to an Oklahoma school of their choice in exchange for a tax credit, allowing more direct money to go into the classroom, rather than being lost in administrative costs.
Hunt would like to see agencies audited to determine efficiency and costs and see which departments needs trimming and which need expanding.
top Republican Kent Hunt
bottom Democrat Emily Virgin