Voters in southern Oklahoma County and parts of Pottawatomie County will select their senator on Aug. 28 in the primary runoff between two Republican candidates.
Since no Democrat filed for the newly redistricted seat, the winner of the runoff will take office, replacing the incumbent Sen. Charlie Laster and giving the GOP one more seat in their super majority hold of the Senate.
The two candidates are both from Shawnee.
Ed Moore, a senior pastor at Pecan Valley Baptist Church, had a slight edge in the four-way Republican primary in June over Ron Sharp, a now retired Shawnee High School government teacher.
Moore, 59, received 34 percent of the vote, while Sharp, 60, received 31 percent of the vote.
Because neither candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates advanced to the runoff.
Sharp said he worries that voter turnout will be even lower than it was in the primary when 4,300 Republican voters turned out.
“It's probably going to be only about half the people that vote,” Sharp said. “We're just trying to get the word out to the voter to let them know that there is an Aug. 28 runoff.”
Moore said he is going door to door among registered Republicans attempting to get the word out that there is an upcoming election that will determine who the senator is for District 17.
The district has been substantially redrawn to include more of Oklahoma County and less of Pottawatomie County.
Laster, who chose not to seek re-election, said the redistricting took the seat from being one that was a toss up between two political parties to one that was almost certain to go Republican.
On the issues
Moore emphasized his opposition to the policies of President Barack Obama, particularly the national health care law.
“We're going to be guided by the philosophy that local control is better,” Moore said. “Ronald Reagan actually endorsed my candidacy back then in 1980. He's long gone but I still revere what he stood for: limited government, individual responsibility, strong national defense, and national sovereignty, as opposed to what we're seeing today.”
Sharp said his number one priority is economic development and job creation.
“We want everyone out there in Oklahoma that wants a job to have a job, and we want it to be a quality job so that they can make a good living,” Sharp said.
He's heard from voters raising children in Oklahoma that they are concerned their kids will move away seeking better employment.
Both candidates said they would support efforts to reduce or eliminate the state income tax if it is done in a responsible manner that doesn't increase other taxes or hurt public services such as public safety, transportation and education.
Setting them apart
Moore was a state senator from 1980 to 1984, and he said those four years of political experience set him apart from his opponent.
“With term limits, seniority becomes paramount, and I bring four years of seniority already to a new district,” Moore said. “I have no stars in my eyes. I know how grueling it can be.”
Sharp characterized Moore as having made “a career out of wanting to be a career politician.”
“The only experience he has is not showing up,” Sharp said, criticizing Moore's voting record his final year in office.
“He missed 71 percent of his votes,” Sharp said.
Moore said at the end of his term in office he was boycotting the Legislative process of secretive committee meetings, when they didn't post their agendas and made key changes to bills before they came to the full Senate.
“If you don't vote it's the same as a no vote,” Moore said. “I was trying to fight against a system that was compromising our political system.”
Moore in turn called Sharp a RINO (Republican in Name Only).
“He's been a registered Democrat for most of his adult life,” Moore said. “He's been telling folks that he is a lifelong Republican.”
Sharp said he has been a registered Republican since 1986 and has always been conservative.
“In most elections back in the 1960s and '70s there were no Republicans running,” Sharp said. “If you didn't register as a Democrat you weren't allowed to participate.”
Things have shifted dramatically in Oklahoma since then, and on Aug. 28 registered Democrats in District 17 won't get to participate in selecting their senator.