Copyright 2010, The Oklahoman
Their money problems included personal bankruptcies, foreclosures and unpaid taxes.
A state budget shortfall of hundreds of millions of dollars is expected next year, so lawmakers will again be tasked with difficult decisions in managing the state's money.
These 25 candidates differed on whether problems managing their own finances or following state laws would affect their ability to govern during a budget crisis.
Some said personal financial problems uniquely prepared them to tackle the state's budget woes, while others said the prospect of changing unfair laws they say led to their money problems factored into their decision to run for public office.
Among the candidates' problems are a state Senate candidate's personal bankruptcy he says was caused by a music industry deal gone bad, a guilty plea to driving with an open container of beer by another Senate candidate and allegations that a state House candidate slammed his girlfriend's head into a car's dashboard during an argument.
Nineteen of the candidates with problems are state legislative candidates. Two are congressional candidates, and four are candidates for statewide office.
What background checks revealed
The Oklahoman ran tax, bankruptcy, criminal and civil background checks on the 147 candidates running for office Nov. 2. After eliminating some with traffic infractions and other minor matters, reporters found the following 25 candidates had problems worth asking about.
Federal office candidates
Ronald F. Dwyer, 77, Tulsa, I
• Office sought: U.S. Senate
• Filed for personal bankruptcy in 2003, listing debts of almost $190,000 and assets of $73,000.
• State tax warrant for $2,300 in unpaid taxes in 2000.
• Response: Did not return several phone messages.
• Opponents: U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn, 62, Muskogee, R; Jim Rogers, 75, Midwest City, D; Stephen P. Wallace, 61, Tulsa, independent.
Charles L. Thompson, 47, Hulbert, R
• Office sought: 2nd Congressional District
• Filed for personal bankruptcy in 2005, listing debts of $232,000 and assets of $115,000.
• Response: Thompson, a veterinarian, said the bankruptcy stemmed from a business he started that failed. A business loan he took out was sold to another party, which didn't offer favorable repayment terms. "He quit sending out bills, then sent three bills in a row saying I owed nothing," Thompson said. "A few months after that, he filed suit. I could pay him some, but I couldn't pay him everything. I simply did not have the assets, so my only legal option to protect myself and my family was to file bankruptcy. To this day, I feel bad about it, but we went back and reconciled with a lot of our creditors because they had nothing to do with it."
Thompson said the experience gave him a different perspective. "There have been thousands of people across District 2 who have filed bankruptcy for one reason or another. It gives me another avenue to understand what the folks in the district are going through."
• Opponent: Rep. Dan Boren, 37, Muskogee, D.
Statewide office candidates
Steven E. Covert, 61, Midwest City, D
• Office sought: Treasurer
• Several business-
• Wisconsin foreclosure in 2003.
• Co-defendant in Oklahoma County civil judgment of $2,387 for First Fidelity Bank in 2004.
• Response: Covert, a certified public accountant and computer specialist, said he "made a mistake" by not backing up computer code for several consulting projects in the late 1980s in Tulsa County. "I was so broke, I didn't have the money to file for bankruptcy and stop the litigation," he said.
The Racine County, Wis., foreclosure happened after Covert suffered a stroke and fell into a coma for three months. By the time he recovered and learned to walk and talk again, the lender had started foreclosure proceedings on a Wisconsin house Covert was living in while working on consulting projects. "They took the house, but I didn't care," he said.
Covert cosigned for a car loan from First Fidelity Bank for his son, David. "He returned the car, but lawyers got involved," Covert said. The Coverts are fighting the court case, which is ongoing.
• Opponent: State Rep. Ken Miller, 43, Edmond, R.
Mark J. Costello, 54, Edmond, R
• Office sought: Labor Commissioner
• Oklahoma income tax warrants for unpaid taxes in 1987 for $1,520 and in 1994 for $3,498.
• Wisconsin unemployment tax warrant in 2009 for $1,595.
• Response: "I do pay a lot of taxes to a lot of different entities and sometimes you drop the ball," Costello said. "At the end of the day, it was an omission that was corrected when it was discovered."
Costello said the Wisconsin tax warrant came after he hired an employment firm to pay wages to out-of-state employees. The employment services firm apparently did not pay taxes on those wages, an issue Costello didn't find out about until after he sold the business in 2007.
• Opponent: Incumbent Lloyd Fields, 53, Norman, D
Labor Commissioner Lloyd Fields, 53, Norman, D
• Office sought: Labor Commissioner
• Detained at the Oklahoma City detox center in 2008 after a rodeo party where he allegedly tried to take a musician's guitar.
• Unpaid child support judgment in 1997 for $26,000 in Pittsburg County.
The Labor Department paid $200,000 in 2009 to settle a retaliation lawsuit brought by a former employee who supported Fields' 2006 Republican opponent, former Labor Commissioner Brenda Reneau.
• Response: Fields apologized for the 2008 guitar incident and called it "a joke." He said the unpaid child support judgment stemmed from a verbal agreement with his first wife that he no longer had to pay child support, a claim she denied at the time. Fields and the department denied wrongdoing in the employment lawsuit, which was settled a week before it was to go to trial.
• Opponent: Costello.
State Senate candidates
Dale Christenson, 53, Pawhuska, D
• Office sought: Senate District 10
• Filed for personal bankruptcy in December 1989, listing debts of between $50,000 and $100,000 and assets between $50,000 and $100,000. Case discharged in April 1990.
• Response: Christenson, a former country and western singer, said his attempt to make it in the music industry led to bankruptcy. After his band, Dale Christenson and the Prairie Fire, appeared on the television show "Hee-Haw" in 1986, Christenson said he was approached by a talent agent who wanted to manage his music career. The agent sued when Christenson tried to break ties with him due to a decision to "put music on the back burner" because of his wife's pregnancy. Christenson said he was forced to file for bankruptcy to settle the debt related to the agent's lawsuit.
"I was flattered, but naive, and took him up on his offer... He sued me for almost $150,000 far more than our lifestyle as young schoolteachers could handle."
• Opponent: Eddie Fields, 43, Wynona, R.
Sharon Parker, 64,
• Office sought: Senate District 16
• Foreclosure filed in Cleveland County in 1989.
• Response: Parker deferred questions to her husband, Bruce, who said the property foreclosed on was a duplex they bought as an investment property. He said they bought the duplex for about $90,000, but the real estate market "tanked" and caused it to lose two-thirds of its value. Court records show the Parkers owed $71,000 on the property at the time of the foreclosure.
• Opponent: Sen. John Sparks, 41, Norman, D.
Kim David, 49, Porter, R
• Office sought: Senate District 18
• State tax warrant filed in 1995 for $466 in unpaid taxes.
• Response: David said she and her husband were moving during tax season and were "a few days late" paying their state taxes. She said they paid off the warrant as soon as they learned about it.
"We have always paid our bills and taken care of things... it was just something that slipped through the cracks."
• Opponent: Janice Aldridge, 63, Wagoner, D.
Mike Kelly, 54,
• Office sought: Senate District 42
• Pleaded guilty to driving with an open container of beer in McIntosh County in 2000.
• Response: Kelly said he couldn't remember the citation or find it in his records. He confirmed the birth date, address and Social Security number on file in court records matched his.
"I'm not denying it was me. I just don't remember that. I know that sounds crazy."
• Opponent: Sen. Cliff Aldridge, 48, Choctaw, R.
Ralph Shortey, 28,
• Office sought: Senate District 44
• Filed for personal bankruptcy in March 2007, listing debts of $88,375 and assets of $77,800; still active.
• Foreclosure filed in 2003 and 2004 in Oklahoma County.
• Indebtedness filed against him in Oklahoma County in 2004.
• Response: Shortey said he already had debt when he was fired from his job in 2004 after missing several days of work to tend to his wife, who had been having complications during pregnancy. Shortey got another job, but the couple's financial problems snowballed. They filed for bankruptcy so they wouldn't lose their house. They initially filed in 2005, but the case was dismissed for failure to pay the filing fee. Most of the debt listed in their 2007 bankruptcy was related to the mortgage on their $70,000 home in south Oklahoma City. The case was changed to a Chapter 13 bankruptcy because they failed to make payments required under Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The case has been discharged and is nearly closed.
"This is not something to be taken lightly. The fact is, this is a very big deal.... We got behind early and couldn't get caught up.... I learned you can't spend money you don't have."
• Opponent: Randy Rose, 57, Oklahoma City, D.
State House candidates
Rep. Mike Brown, 53, Tahlequah, D
• Office sought: House District 4
• State tax warrant filed in 1998 for $6,811 in unpaid taxes in Muskogee County.
• Response: When Brown started a sign business, he said Tax Commission officials told him he wouldn't have to pay taxes on labor costs because of the type of materials he would be using. Years later, his business was audited and officials told him he should've been paying labor taxes all along. Brown remembers being told of "a gray area in the law" requiring him to pay the taxes. He was hit with a tax warrant and paid it. He said the situation prompted him to work with his local legislator to get the law changed.
"That's actually what catapulted me into politics."
• Opponent: Dwayne Thompson, 51, Fort Gibson, R.
Eric Cullen, 36,
• Office: House District 9
• Filed personal bankruptcy in March 2001, listing $192,541 in debt and $138,936 in assets. Case closed in July 2001.
• Response: Did not return several calls to his office.
• Opponent: Marty Quinn, 51, Claremore, R.
Paul C. Parrott, 41, Vian, R
• Office sought: House District 15
• Filed personal bankruptcy in April 1995. Case discharged in September 1995.
• Response: Parrott said he was able to pay his debtors and learn from the ordeal. Recently he has taught high school students about financial responsibility.
"I was 25 years old with a recent baby, and I'd lost my job. ... It's a little embarrassing when you're not able to meet your obligations. ... It is a learning experience. Stuff happens. You got to try to deal with it and overcome and move on from there."
• Opponent: Rep. Ed Cannaday, 69, Porum, D.
Allie Burgin, 70, Wynnewood, R
• Office sought: House District 22
• Business bankruptcy filed in September 1991 with more than $500,000 in claims was discharged in May 1992 with all creditors being paid.
• Response: Burgin said in the late 1980s the FDIC took over a bank, with which he had a construction loan.
"It gave me some empathy for those people that are hurting right now and are in financial straits ... If you're a fiscally conservative guy and something like that happens to you, it really brings home to you the fact no matter how big you, how secure you think you are, the circumstances are the government can come in and damage you pretty bad."
• Opponent: Rep. Wes Hilliard, 37, Sulphur, D.
Chris Odneal, 31,
• Office sought: House District 27
• Two state tax warrants filed in Pottawatomie County in 2002 for $11,389 in unpaid taxes. A $10,519 state tax warrant was released paid in July 2002 and an $870 warrant was released paid in February 2003.
• Response: Odneal, who was 23 at the time, and a business partner had started an Internet cafe business that lasted about three months, he said. Odneal now runs a computer repair and surveillance installation business.
"I don't really think it reflects on my candidacy. It was something we wanted to try to do for the community because that was back before broadband was readily available and it just wasn't a service that folks were that interested in ... I think the business that I'm running now, we employ nine people, we started it four years ago and it is doing quite well. I think that that reflects that we were able to grow a business during a really bad economic downturn."
• Opponent: Josh Cockroft, 21, McLoud, R.
Rep. Cory T. Williams, 32, Stillwater, D
• Office sought: House District 34
• Between 1997 and this year, 10 traffic tickets, including eight for excessive speed. All the fines, more than $1,400, have been paid.
• Response: Williams said he does a lot of driving as an attorney and legislator. While not excusing his driving record, Williams wrote in an e-mail he doesn't believe his driving record is as important as his legislative record.
"I do not believe my driving record affects my ability to represent my constituency. This state is looking at a budget shortfall of almost $1.5 billion dollars next year, we consistently rank low or last in education, access to health care, infrastructure, and overall health of our population. Certainly your readers have the right to know who among us is speeding but there are some real problems that face our state. I show up every day and try to find solutions to those problems."
• Opponent: Ryan Smith, 34, Stillwater, R.
Rodger Ensign, 60, Pawnee, D
• Office sought: House District 35
• A $2,486 state tax warrant for unpaid taxes filed in Lincoln County in March 2009, which was released as paid six months later.
• A personal bankruptcy filed in June 2005 with more than $340,000 in debt was discharged in September 2005.
• A $1,228 state tax warrant for unpaid taxes filed in Payne County in January 2004 and released as paid in May 2005.
• Response: Ensign said bureaucracy is making it tough for business owners and said that more than once he's had excessive regulation shut down his business ventures. He said he tried to deal with all the tax issues before they got too bad, but was stifled by regulators and bureaucrats.
"The government is making it almost impossible to do business. ... We keep saying we're a business-friendly state and we are not and it gets worse every year. There's a big scramble from every state agency now to find as much money any place they can and it's anti-business, big time. We got to get smarter because they're putting us out of business, all of us."
• Opponent: Dennis Casey, 50, Morrison, R
Rep. Wallace Collins, 69, Norman, D
• Office sought: House District 45
• Two Cleveland County juries awarded 1996 election opponents $127,000 for libelous statements made during a successful re-election bid. In 2000, a $45,000 verdict for Collins' Democratic primary opponent was reversed on appeal to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. An $82,000 verdict in favor of his opponent in the 1996 general election was upheld by the same court.
• Response: Collins said he has paid the $82,000 judgment and moved on with his lesson learned. Collins first run for office was in 1996 and he called the campaign issues a "rookie mistake."
"It's affected the way I've been a legislator. It's certainly made me smarter. I feel like it gave me an education that I wouldn't have had otherwise. I wish I hadn't of gotten it that way."
• Opponent: Aaron Stiles, 31, Norman, R
Rep. Randy Terrill, 41, Moore, R
• Office sought: House District 53
• A 2005 personal bankruptcy was discharged in 2006 and reopened in 2008 because the court learned of $11,000 he loaned his campaign but never listed as an asset on the initial filing. Terrill claimed assets of $43,250 and debt of $78,179 in the initial filing. The bankruptcy was closed in August 2010.
Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater has opened a political corruption probe into some of Terrill's actions in the last legislative session.
• Response: Did not respond to several phone calls or an e-mail.
• Opponent: Amy Corley, 44, Newalla, D.
Amy Corley, 44,
• Office sought: House District 53
• Pending foreclosure on Cleveland County home.
• Response: Corley said the foreclosure was the result of Bank of America buying Countrywide, the bank that held her original mortgage. She said she had an agreement with Countrywide that she'd make payments later because of a costly medical emergency in her family. Bank of America did not honor the hardship agreement, Corley said.
"There are a lot of people with similar stories, but my attorney has filed a counterclaim and I'm sure we'll prevail."
• Opponent: Terrill.
Wilson John Adamson, 30, Fairview, D
• Office sought: House District 58
• Breach of contract with Discover Bank for $3,321 filed in Major County in 2002.
• Response: "I was in college, got one card, got two cards. I was learning how to use credit cards. I never paid them and eventually they sued me. What's interesting about that is that was when our state universities still had solicitors on campus. It was irresponsible of me, but I paid it off."
• Opponent: Rep. Jeff Hickman, 36, Fairview, R.
Michael J. Corrales, 50, Lawton, D
• Office sought: House District 64
• Assault and battery complaint filed last month in Comanche County. Kimberly Leonard, 22, was treated at a hospital for injuries to her head and body. According to a police report, Leonard said she was driving to their home when Corrales got angry, grabbed her and slammed her head into the dashboard several times. Leonard has since sought to amend her original statement to the police.
• Protective Order filed Oct. 12 by Kimberly Leonard in Comanche County. A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 28.
• Foreclosure on a Comanche County property in 2004.
• Response: Corrales said the incident with Leonard was a misunderstanding that was blown out of proportion because of the political race.
"It's going to be re
Corrales said the foreclosure was part of a business investment that went wrong for the builder. He said the contractor filed a lien against the building because of a disagreement.
"I did the land lease to the builder and financed his construction. That's why I was named. Unfortunately, I got caught in the middle."
• Opponent: Rep. Ann Coody, 72, Lawton, R.
Dominique DaMon Block, 30, Oklahoma City, R
• Office sought: House District 88
• Lawsuit filed in Oklahoma County by Discover Bank for $1,911 for defaulting on a credit card agreement.
• Forcible entry and detainer filed in Oklahoma County in March 2009 for $800 in unpaid rent to an apartment.
• Response: Block said most of his financial troubles came about because of his time in graduate school and being in between jobs. "Most American families do have debts. Mine were from going to school and trying to work from the bottom up and live in this economy ... I'm just an average guy; a black man, a blue-collar worker, a husband and a father ... I've got a little debt, but it's manageable, and I'm managing it."
• Opponent: Rep. Al McAffrey, 62, Oklahoma City, D.
Rep. Al McAffrey, 62, Oklahoma City, D
• Office sought: House District 88
• Federal tax lien filed against him in 1993 for $5,465 in unpaid taxes. Lien released in 1995.
• Response: Did not respond to several phone calls or an e-mail.
• Opponent: Block.
Michael Anthony Walker, 54, Oklahoma City, D
• Office sought: House District 95
• Walker was sued in civil court by former campaign manager Teresa Hill for $10,000 in damages arising from an incident in 2008. Hill claimed Walker choked and shook her. A jury last month awarded Hill $1,500 but found no evidence Walker assaulted her.
• State tax warrant filed against him in 2004 for $5,358 in unpaid taxes in Oklahoma County. Released as paid the same year.
• Response: "There was no impropriety whatso
• Opponent: Rep. Charlie Joyner, 70, Midwest City, R