Brian O'Hara, a Republican candidate for Senate District 37, spoke at the Sand Springs Chamber of Commerce candidate forum at Tulsa Technology Center Monday morning in Sand Springs.
The following is a transcript of his opening remarks. Candidates were given a five-minute time limit, followed by a question and answer session.
"It's fantastic to be here, and what's even more fantastic is the fact that my wife and I have been married 34 years (points to McAtee and Nollan), 36 years, 35 years. That says a lot about the candidates that you have running for this office.
There are certain people that when they run for office, they're a part of your community. I have been incredibly blessed to have been a part of your community. That's why I decided to run. Like Phil and others, I've had the opportunity to hear what you guys have to say. Not only on the doorstep, not just for the last two or three months, but for the last five years.
Working for Congressman Bridenstine, I've had to hear your concerns. I've had to listen. It's a privilege to know what you guys are talking about. Yes, education clearly is the first and foremost thing on most of your minds.
I want to set your minds at ease right now. I know people ask me, and they often ask me because they know where the congressman stands, 'where do you stand on education?' Well let me explain to you. I have five children, all five of them went to public school. My last just graduated from Jenks. I've had six exchange students come into my home. All six of them went to public school.
I was a PTA president. My wife has been a part of the PTA as well. My mother taught, my brothers teach - one has passed away - so I have a real desire to work on education. My youngest son's going to go to UCO and what he wants to do is be a teacher. Again, I have a vested interest because I don't want him coming home.
I say all this to say this. Congressman Bridenstine, and some of you may know this, does support vouchers. I met with a very conservative group, and I knew where they stood on vouchers. And they asked me point blank, where do you stand on vouchers? I said I don't support them, and I explained why.
One, the money. Two; when you allow City government, State government, Federal government to come into your classrooms, whether it be home schooling or private school, then you have the ability to have those entities tell you how to educate your children. And most of you are sending your children to private school or home schooling because you don't want that.
The budget is the second thing I hear on the doorstep, and you hear often. I've been saying this for two and a half years. The budget needs to be our priority. I owned a business, I owned a couple of Subways before I came to work for the congressman. It is ludicrous for us to consider the last two weeks of the session what we're supposed to do in the beginning of the session.
As a businessman, if I wanted to say my subway sandwiches, this is what I need to sell, at the end of the month rather than the beginning of the month, I would have gone broke. So I understand how important that is.
I was a City Councilman in Jenks. Look, Elizabeth (Grey) will tell you, we need to find a way to help fund them. The safety districts is something I will support. And what that does is give you the opportunity to decide what you want your money to go to.
Going back to education, one of the things I'd like to start seeing us do on education is to allow you, the individual voters, the people in the school districts to decide. We have an antiquated system that's thirty years old on how we fund schools. We need to look at that. We need to give off-the-top dollars, your dollars. Only about 78% of the money you use, you pay in taxes, actually goes to your school district. We have to change that. We have to allow you guys to decide where you want your money to go. So I would advocate that we change the funding to allow you guys to have your schools in better shape.
There are a lot of other things going on. Those are just three areas where I think I can be of benefit to you. But the main thing is, Phil said it, is relationships. I've built relationships over the past five years. With each and every one of you. I've come to your events. I've come to Chillin' and Grillin'. I've come to Boo On Broadway and I've had the opportunity to meet you individually, so I know who you are. I know where you stand on the issues. Now also note, that unless we build relationships what we do at the Capitol won't matter.
So I'm asking for your support. The Republic primary is September twelfth. I would love for your vote. My cards are out there, my personal cell phone is on them. Any questions you have, I'll answer. And sometime's it's not going to be the answer you want, but it'll be an honest answer, it'll be a truthful answer, and I appreciate your support."