Oklahoma House District 39 race heats up in Edmond

Challenger Bob Dani says incumbent GOP House District 39 legislator Mary Cooksey is not conservative enough.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: June 9, 2012
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Bob Dani hopes to rile up like-minded social conservatives in state House District 39 to support him at the polls in much the same manner he's built an audience at an Oklahoma City gun range in the past couple years.

Dani, seeking his first political office, is trying to oust Rep. Marian Cooksey, R-Edmond, who was elected to the post in 2004. Billboards are visible throughout the district, which covers most of Edmond, and both candidates are going door-to-door and mailing campaign literature.

The winner of the June 26 Republican primary will be the House District 39 representative. No Democrat or independent filed.

Cooksey calls herself a lifelong conservative, but Dani, of Edmond, said he would be more aggressive in supporting conservative social issues such as the so-called personhood bill, which was not brought up this year on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Dani three years ago founded the High Noon Club, a nondues-paying group that meets weekly at H&H Gun Range in western Oklahoma City. It started with him and a couple friends meeting at the gun range for lunch and to shoot guns while they talked about various political issues; about 150 from across the Oklahoma City metro area regularly show up now for the meetings.

“There was no group out there that was really talking about some of the issues on both sides,” he said. “We want this always to be a free public forum to educate the voter base.”

Cooksey, 68, said she likely would have voted against the personhood measure, Senate Bill 1433, which won easy passage in the Republican-controlled Senate but was not brought up for a vote by the full House. Backers said it was a statement that Oklahomans value life and that nothing in the measure would have prohibited contraception or in vitro fertilization. Opponents said it could have led to restrictions on abortions, birth control, in vitro fertilization and stem cell research.

Cooksey, who serves as assistant majority whip and is part of the current House leadership team, said she and other House Republicans approved more than 30 anti-abortion measures since the GOP gained control of the House after the 2004 elections.

“I felt that we had done everything in the bill,” she said. “For the last eight years ever since we came in in 2004 we have run right-to-life bills every year. We have done a lot every year to preserve life.”

Cooksey said she also was worried about possible legal challenges if the measure had passed. For months, backers of SB 1433 said the measure was based on a law in Missouri, which was upheld in 1989 by the U.S. Supreme Court, but SB 1433 omitted a section of the Missouri law that says the law shall be interpreted and construed subject to the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

Cooksey did vote for a nonbinding measure, House Resolution 1054, which states that human life begins at fertilization — except in cases of in vitro fertilization.

Dani, 61, said he would vote for more spending cuts in the state budget. He supports a cut in the state's personal income tax, but that can't happen until the state starts cutting back on spending.

“There's no effort to cut spending,” he said. “I'm absolutely not for an income-tax cut until they can show that they're going to cut spending because our income tax is approximately 40 percent of our budget. How are we going to actually zero out the income tax if we can't cut spending? And the answer is you can't.”

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