Two incumbent Oklahoma City Council members will face election challenges from candidates receiving tea party backing — support opponents worry will inject partisanship into a nonpartisan race.
“I can't think of a better way to shake up the politicians than to wrest control of the biggest city in the state from the progressives and liberal's hands,” wrote Sooner Tea Party co-founder Al Gerhart in the January newsletter posted on the group's website.
Incumbents worry about the partisanship expressed with such proclamations.
“I think one of the advantages that Oklahoma City Council has had is being a nonpartisan operation,” said Councilman Patrick Ryan, who has drawn opposition from tea party-
Councilwoman Meg Salyer, who is being challenged by tea party-backed Adrian Van Manen and 21-year-old Jessica L. Holstein, said nonpartisanship aids in policymaking.
“At the city level, we deal with policy that directly influences our city,” Salyer said. “We don't deal with the kind of social issues that seem to be part of other agendas.”
Hearron and Van Manen said they understand the nonpartisan nature of the city council posts but aren't going to divorce themselves from those who believe as they do.
“It's a nonpartisan position all right, but tell me a person in the country that's a true nonpartisan,” Hearron said. “Given what we've got, I'd rather see the tea party take it over. I'm not part of the tea party takeover of Oklahoma City. But, if you gave me a vote, that's the way I'd vote.”
Van Manen said: “I realize it's a nonpartisan race, but I'm not going to change who I am because it's a nonpartisan race. I'm not a tea party candidate. I'm a nonpartisan candidate, but tea party people and I have a lot of things in common.”
In interviews with The Oklahoman, the candidates said issues such as roads, code enforcement and public safety should be the focus of the city council. All stayed away from what they called partisan social issues.
With one current councilman not running and three council members facing challengers, the historically quiet city council elections could become more raucous.
The candidate filing period for Wards 2, 5, 6 and 8 closed Monday. The primary is set for March 1, with a general election scheduled April 5, if needed. The positions are nonpartisan. Candidates do not declare a party affiliation.
In north central Oklahoma City's Ward 2, where Councilman Sam Bowman is not seeking re-election, six candidates filed for the post.
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AT A GLANCE
Candidacy filing closed
Filing closed Monday for those wishing to run for Oklahoma City Council Wards 2, 5, 6 and 8. A two-day period for those wishing to contest a candidacy begins today..
The primary is set for March 1, with a general election scheduled April 5, if needed.
(i) = incumbent