A candidate for state representative says the swastika he's wearing in a snapshot was part of his Halloween costume.
However, the replica of a Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross awarded to German Nazi heroes on the wall behind him is there because he likes what it stands for, said Republican candidate Rodney Hiebert, 42, of Taloga.
“Traditionally it represents honor and dignity, which frankly is something this country can use more of,” Hiebert said. He is running for House District 59, which includes Kingfisher, Blaine, Canadian, Dewey, Major and Woodward counties.
He said he's not circulating a campaign photograph to counter the one of him wearing a swastika.
Hiebert faces incumbent Rep. Mike Sanders, 36, R-Kingfisher. The race will be decided Tuesday since no Democrats are running.
Sanders said Hiebert wore the swastika the day he filed as a candidate at the state Capitol, although was hesitant say anything critical about his opponent's choice to wear it.
“We live in America, and everyone has the right to put their name on the ballot,” Sanders said.
Hiebert said he is not a racist. He said people of American Indian descent help in his campaign, and he believes more history about indigenous Oklahomans should be taught in schools. He also believes Spanish language classes should be eliminated, and there is no need to incorporate more black history into teachers' lesson plans, he said.
“Mexico is a Third World country and Spain is economically folding,” Hiebert said. “I don't see any reason why our young people need to waste their time learning Spanish.”
Sanders is seeking his third term as state representative. He is employed at his family's business, Sanders Funeral Home in Kingfisher. He earned a bachelor's degree in history and political science from Oklahoma Christian University.
He began working on political campaigns at a young age, including the 2000 campaign for President George W. Bush. Under the Bush administration, he served as director of interns at the White House.
He later served as deputy chief of staff for rural development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. From 1999 to 2003, he served on the Council for Small Business for Gov. Frank Keating.
Hiebert said he blames incumbents for the problems in state government, and will serve only one term if elected. He's not accepting campaign donations, because he doesn't want to be beholden to any special interest groups, he said.
In the past, Hiebert has worked as roughneck in the oil field, as a nursing home aide, and has farmed. He said he's not currently employed because he's focusing on the race.
If elected, he said he plans to research the state lottery's contribution to education, concentrate on legislation that reduces crime and support measures that would benefit oil producers and reduce government spending.