By: Scott Emigh, Editor-in-Chief
The Sand Springs Chamber of Commerce hosted an open forum Monday for Senate seat 37 candidates. All seven candidates were invited, five attended, but the awkward drama between three of them stole the show. Outgoing Sand Springs Superintendent Lloyd Snow is running for the democratic nomination for the seat, and he's found an unusual ally from the other side of the political spectrum.
Sand Springs City Councilman Brian Jackson is a Republican, but doesn't hesitate to endorse Snow as the best alternative to incumbent Dan Newberry, should Newberry win the Republican nomination. Jackson has even gone so far as to go canvassing with Superintendent Snow.
Jackson, whose wife is a third-grade teacher, makes it clear that should he be defeated in the Republican primary on June 28th, his campaign won't end there.
"I believe public education is the cornerstone to our democracy, and should be guarded from politicians that want to inflict harm. I do not support any measure such as vouchers that would divert or direct tax dollars away from public education," said Jackson, an obvious jab at Newberry who failed to publicly oppose SB609, which would have redirected funds from public education to private schools. The high-profile bill received major public backlash from the education community before dying in committee. Many District 37 residents expressed frustration that Newberry failed to reply to any emails or phone calls regarding the bill, and never publicly declared his position, should it have been heard on the Senate floor.
"Many politicians, including one in this room, will stand behind false over-inflated words that teachers should receive a medal for the work they do. This is merely smoke and mirrors and does not reflect a genuine thought." Jackson also claimed to have overheard Newberry rudely dismiss a Sand Springs educator's concerns on a past trip to the Capitol. "This disrespectful action will not be tolerated and I am honored to not be alone in this race to unseat the disrespectful actions of this politician."
Newberry has faced a lot of backlash from the education community. Political Action Committee "Oklahomans for Public Education" rated the Senator as "Dangerous" and "Not Supportive of Public Ed" in their most recent list of 2016 candidates. Jackson and Snow, meanwhile, were endorsed as "Pro-Public Education."
Newberry's not without some high profile supporters, however. Victory Christian Center Pastor Sharon Daugherty, Sand Springs City Councilman Jim Spoon, and former Sand Springs Chamber of Commerce President Mary Eubanks have all starred in promotional videos endorsing the Newberry campaign. Sand Springs Vice-Mayor John Fothergill has also expressed his support via Facebook.
In defense of Newberry's education record, he did coauthor HB3218 to eliminate End of Instruction Exams, but it was far from a divisive bill. Twenty-seven other senators coauthored on the bill, as did forty-seven house representatives. The legislation cleared the House 95 to 1 and the Senate 45 to 1.
While Newberry faces heavy criticism from the education community, Snow and Jackson face criticism from just about everyone else. Supporters of Newberry have pointed out that while Education is crucial, it is not the only pressing matter for a Senator to deal with. Newberry's challengers have been accused of inadequately addressing the numerous duties a Senator must perform.
"Our state education system, along with other core areas of state government, including transportation, infrastructure, corrections, and mental health, is grossly and recklessly underfunded," said Jackson. That was all he said about the issues before continuing on in his pro-education spiel.
Superintendent Snow fared about the same when it came to diversifying his platform. "It breaks my heart that we're going to have fifty-one fewer employees in Sand Springs schools next year." Snow failed to touch on anything other than education in his speech.
The Democratic challenger does have his standpoints on some key issues listed on his website. He promises to fix income inequality between equally qualified men and women working the same job. He touches on creating quality jobs and diversifying the state economy, supporting police and firemen, and giving individuals more control over their personal healthcare. Jackson, meanwhile, has no political ideology listed anywhere on his Facebook page or website, except for a brief mention that "illegal aliens-if they want to live here, they need to go through the proper procedures for citizenship."
"It's not personal with me, it's performance," said Snow. "This past legislature--and I've got good friends there, it's not personal--it was a side-step. It wasn't a step up. Band-aid, band-aid, band-aid. Folks, this budget's gonna fail."
"It's not my ambition and it never was. But I feel an obligation...I may not tell you what you want to hear, but I will always give you 100% every day."