The wide-open Oklahoma City Ward 2 City Council election race is jammed with six candidates jostling to succeed outgoing two-term Councilman Sam Bowman.
The Ward 2 primary election on Tuesday likely will end in a runoff on April 5. In anticipation of a tight race, candidates have been hitting the campaign trail, trying to get their messages out and spending money.
Of the 13 people vying for four city council seats, the two top spending candidates as of Feb. 13 were senior bank officer Charlie Swinton and physician Ed Shadid, both Ward 2 candidates. According to finance reports filed last week, each had spent more than $21,000 on the campaign trail.
That spending is not deterring the other candidates: student and entrepreneur Sam Tichenor, business owner John Milner, Oklahoma City Planning Commissioner Janis Powers and union representative Jeffrey Stark.
Swinton, 61, a lobbyist at the state Capitol on behalf of his employer, BancFirst, said he wants to create jobs and work with public schools to improve education opportunities.
“I think the city has to continue to be at the forefront in creating jobs for its citizens,” he said. “I'm for projects like MAPS. I'm for economic incentives, particularly if we can get corporate headquarters moving here.”
It's not the first foray in politics for Shadid, 42, a spinal surgeon. Shadid ran last year for state House District 85 as an independent candidate.
“We need a fiercely independent voice on the city council,” Shadid said. “I think as a physician I would bring unique ideas. I would strongly advocate for local food production and distribution. I would strongly advocate for healthier food in our schools for our children.”
Tichenor, 32, a University of Oklahoma student majoring in petroleum engineering, said he was inspired to run by the rise of tea party groups, which have increased citizen
“I support most of the ideals they profess, but wouldn't call myself a tea partyer,” he said. “My main concern is spending and long-term investment. Our city is doing a good job of angling ourselves toward positive growth ... I would just like to continue that growth and promote more.”
Milner, a co-owner of Tree and Leaf Clothing Co. and the youngest candidate in the election, said he decided to run when he realized his generation will be the caretakers of many of the city projects now under way.
“I'm 26, with some of these programs not completing for 10 to 15 years, I'm going to be 35 or 40,” he said. “That generation is going to be taking care of it. I think we do need a little bit more of a say. We're the ones that are going to be seeing it and probably enjoying it.”
Janis Powers, 55, the Ward 2 planning commissioner, said she is running because she has worked closely with Bowman and wants to be a strong neighborhood advocate.
“All these other issues have got a lot of vocal advocates and there's going to be plenty of debate,” she said. “There has to be somebody at the table saying what about the neighborhoods. Ward 2 is the second smallest ward but it has the largest number of neighborhood associations of any of them.”
Stark, 39, a representative for the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, said he is running because he wants to make sure Oklahoma City residents are considered for jobs created by city-sponsored development.
“I would like to see the council focus more on keeping the jobs here and the money here,” he said. “I think it's important for us to keep the MAPS tax dollar in Oklahoma. If a contractor isn't based here and his employees aren't based here, then that money isn't going to be here or come back.”
The Oklahoman ran tax, bankruptcy, criminal and civil background checks on all 13 candidates vying for four city council seats.
After eliminating some with traffic infractions and other minor matters, the checks revealed a few problems worth asking about.
Tichenor pleaded guilty in 1998 to possessing LSD. A marijuana possession charge was dismissed and he received a deferred sentence. Tichenor, who was 19 at the time, said he did not use the drug and was unaware of what his roommates were doing.
“Being on the lease of that apartment, I was partially responsible for whatever went on inside the house,” he said. “It's a regrettable occurrence in my life, but you live life and you move on. I've grown from that and learned from that.”
In 1993, a bank filed a credit action against Stark for $5,685. It was recorded as settled two months after being filed.
“Me and my wife were in a car accident and we owed more on the car than the insurance paid off,” he said. “At 19 I didn't have the money to fight, so I settled with them.”
In May 2004, Swinton testified in front of a state Legislative commission investigating Carroll Fisher, the former state insurance commissioner convicted of bribery in 2009. Swinton said BancFirst was approached by Fisher's representative and asked to buy items for Fisher's office.
Swinton said the bank purchased Fisher an ice machine for $3,648 after he was told the Central Services Department signed off on the purchase.
“I testified because I was the one that coordinated it for the bank,” he said, adding that neither he nor the bank were accused of doing anything wrong. “We would not have given it if they had not given us a letter from central services saying it was OK.”
Swinton also was scrutinized for an e-mail announcing his candidacy that was sent by his wife, Oklahoma County District Judge Barbara Swinton, from her state courts network e-mail.
“There was a screw up with the computer at the very first. She reimbursed the system for it and she talked to the chief justice the instant we discovered it. It's just a regrettable error. She thought she was sending it out on a private deal and it wasn't.”
Swinton had spent $21,922 as of Feb. 13, the most of any Ward 2 candidate, according to campaign finance reports filed last week. With the largest list of donors contributing more than $200 among the candidates, Swinton had raised $44,570.
His top contributors were the Chesapeake Oklahoma PAC and Aubrey McClendon, chief executive of Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp., each of which gave Swinton $5,000.
Shadid had received $74,200 in donations, the most of any candidate. Shadid was his own biggest contributor, writing checks to himself for $65,000.
Four other donors, contributing a total of $1,750, also have the last name Shadid. The campaign had spent $21,432, according to the paperwork.
Donations fall off significantly after the top two money raisers, according to the campaign finance reports. Milner had raised $2,055 and spent $1,249. Powers had raised $750 and spent $256. Stark had raised $750, but had no expenditures. Tichenor had not filed a campaign finance report.