Four Republicans are looking to replace the term-limited, 12-year incumbent Sen. Jonathan Nichols in an all-Norman race for Senate District 15.
The men — two doctors, a pharmacist and an insurance company owner — have met in many debates. All say they are strong candidates and that it's been a mostly positive race for the district that includes parts of Cleveland and Pottawatomie counties.
The winner will face Claudia Griffith, a Democrat and registered nurse, also of Norman, in the November general election.
Jack Beller, 66, is an orthopedic surgeon, who said his experience working with the Legislature for the past 10 years, as president and later legislative liaison for the Oklahoma State Medical Association, sets him apart from his opponents.
“I have learned the process of legislation,” Beller said. “Learned how to read the bills, learned how to get them managed through the Legislature and get them passed.”
Beller said that he would be able to influence medical bills as the only medical doctor in the Senate. He also touts his experience as a small-business owner.
“I know what over-regulation and over-taxation does to small business in terms of preventing them from growing and prospering,” Beller said. “We are going to need those jobs to get out of this recession.”
He said he supports a reduction of the personal income tax but only after the state takes care of key services: “education, roads and bridges, public safety and being a safety net to those who through no fault of their own need help.”
“Our government is doing a lot more things other than the basic core obligations,” Beller said.
He's a fifth-generation Oklahoman who believes in the second amendment, that marriage is the union between one woman and one man, that life begins at conception and that abortion should be done only to save the life of the mother in the case of rape or incest.
Harold Haralson, 57, a physician in a private practice, said he was drawn to run by concern about the welfare and future of our children and grandchildren.
“Particularly for me, thinking back through the years and the amount of freedoms that we have lost ... the amount of regulations that our legislatures continue to pass on citizens as well as business continues to increase and I would like to reverse that trend,” Haralson said.
What sets him apart from the three other conservative candidates, he said, is his prior political positions that include mayor of Norman and city council member in Noble.
“I think that you will find we're pretty similar based on debates that we've had,” Haralson said. “I'm the only one that has political experience. It has allowed me to interact with citizens in the past. I'm familiar with how citizens feel and the issues they have. I understand how to work with other elected officials.”
Haralson is opposed to the Obama health care plan and he said he is supportive of a reduction of personal income tax only if it truly is revenue neutral and holds Oklahoma services harmless.
“My personal opinion is that winning the Republican nomination just means that you have to work that much harder to make sure you win the general,” Haralson said.
Bob Neidhart, owner of Neidhart Insurance Solutions, joked that all he knows about his opponents is that they are all taller, younger and better looking. But, he said, he's the man for the job at the Capitol.
“I'm a strong Christian and I really feel like the Lord wants me to do it because I've been complaining for years and it's time to do something,” Neidhart said. “The way our country has fallen in the last decade ... it's horrible.”
Specifically, he said, he is troubled by desecration of the American flag, the persecution and mockery of Christianity and a lack of general honesty among the people.
If elected, he said, his top priorities will be dealing with illegal immigration, reducing taxes and reducing crime.
“For one thing, it's like they're breaking into your house and they come in ... and they steal everything you've got and they're paying you nothing for it,” Neidhart said of illegal immigrants. “That's what they're doing with all of the entitlement programs that you've paid for ... They're here illegally and illegal is illegal.”
Neidhart, 69, said he would push to have all illegal immigrants shipped home and then, if they return, have them placed in jails that are tent cities without air-conditioning or other amenities.
“If it's good enough for the military to have that kind of life, why isn't it good enough for illegal immigrants?” Neidhart said.
Rob Standridge, 45, is a self-employed pharmacist who owns his own pharmacies, and said he appreciates the finances of working people and business owners.
“I just feel like the country in general is getting away from the principles on which we were founded,” Standridge said. “I think if we had more business people in our government, they'd be a lot more efficient.”
Additionally, Standridge said his passion for family values sets him apart from the other candidates. He has two young daughters.
“I don't just speak it. I'm a person of action and I would be the same there,” Standridge said. “I wouldn't be blustering away at the front of the room.”
He said he would fight President Barack Obama's health care reform, tooth and nail, because it's a danger to the health care system.