In Lawton, two-term incumbent Sen. Don Barrington is facing political newcomer Tony Terrill, a Democrat and middle-school teacher who said he will fight for education.
Senate District 31 has been redrawn to include voters in Cotton, Jefferson and Tillman counties, as well as parts of Stephens and Comanche counties.
Barrington, 65, was first elected to the seat in 2004.
“I've enjoyed serving. I'm a service-oriented person,” said Barrington, R-Lawton. “There's a myriad of issues that voters are concerned with that we try to address.”
Terrill, 40, also of Lawton, said that every day at Eisenhower Middle School, he finds himself in the middle of a fight for adequate funding.
“The Legislature has allowed education to be cut by $322 million in the last four years,” he said. “I'm just a firm believer that public education is the great equalizer. There's really no other institution that levels the playing field. It's not a matter of money it's a matter of priority.”
Terrill said he has 147 students and 32 textbooks.
“We have to be very creative,” he said. “It is a huge stretch of resources.”
Barrington said education has been the least cut of any state agency during the recession.
“We actually went back and gave them a supplemental of $34 million,” Barrington said. “I think you'll see some of those needs addressed, but you have to take things into consideration as a whole in order to move the state forward.”
Barrington said he has a record as being pro-business, particularly focusing on promoting the growth of small businesses.
He said lawmakers are looking at workers' compensation and health care issues to help Oklahoma attract more businesses.
Barrington also said he will focus on public safety issues as a chair of the public safety committee.
He said Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers are retiring faster than they can be replaced.
“It's a matter of having more trooper academies and getting these slots filled so we can have our law enforcement out on the highway,” he said.
Terrill, whose father served as a senator from Lawton for 22 years, said he has been accused of being a single-issue candidate.
“I don't really fall anywhere on the political spectrum,” Terrill said. “I fall on the side of education. … My whole philosophy has been this: it starts with education. Once you have a well-educated workforce, everything else follows.”
He said the number one recommendation of businesses is improvements to the education system.
Terrill said he would donate a portion of his salary as a senator — the difference between his teaching salary and what he'd make as a senator — to the schools in his district, dividing the money equally.
He said he'd fight for deregulation of the education system, putting more power in the hands of local school districts and less power at the state Education Department.