A Baptist minister in Yukon has a good shot of being the first Republican to serve in the House District 60 post, thanks to redistricting that moved the post from a predominantly Democratic area to a more evenly split district taking in much of the west Oklahoma City metro area.
The Rev. Dan Fisher, who describes himself as a social conservative, has raised 20 times the amount of money of his Democratic opponent and more voters live in the El Reno and Yukon area where he is better known. Latest campaign reports showed he raised $47,878 as of Aug. 13, compared with $2,278 raised by Democrat Kendra Menz-Kimble.
“This district is stronger Republican, and I honestly think that this year is going to be a strong year for Republicans,” Fisher said. “We've run pretty hard, so I think we're in good shape. But you never know until the votes come in.”
Fisher, of El Reno, won 54 percent of the vote in the June 26 Republican primary election. Menz-Kimble, of Hinton, was unopposed. They meet in the Nov. 6 general election.
The new House District 60, which takes effect in mid-November, carves out sections of Canadian and Caddo counties. It now covers the western Oklahoma counties of Beckham, Ellis, Greer, Harmon and Roger Mills. Rep. Purcy Walker, D-Elk City, has served 12 years in the Legislature and can't seek re-election because of legislative term limits.
The district was moved because of the population shift from rural to urban areas. The new District 60 includes rural areas and most of the main population areas west of Yukon, El Reno and Hinton. A column of the district extends south to Carnegie.
District 60 has been Democratic since 1965, when members of the House began being elected by district instead of by county. Democrats a year ago outnumbered Republicans almost 2-1 in the current District 60 — 11,170 to 5,947 with 1,644 independents.
Voters who will cast ballots in the reconfigured District 60 are mostly Republican. Voter registration numbers two weeks ago showed about 8,800 Republicans, 7,800 Democrats and about 1,900 independents.
Menz-Kimble, 41, said it will be difficult to keep the district a Democratic seat.
“However, I believe that I'm not the average Democrat,” she said. “I am very concerned about the gridlock that I feel like our state's been in due to the issues with partisanship.
“Canadian County and Caddo County are drastically different,” Menz-Kimble said. “Caddo County is very rural and there's a lot more poverty there …. In Canadian County they're more concerned about attracting new businesses.
Fisher, 53, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Yukon, is seeking his first political office. He regularly attends meetings of the High Noon Club, made up of about 150 people who meet weekly at a west Oklahoma City gun range.
Menz-Kimble works as an office manager at the K2 Vet in Hinton, where her husband, Shane, is the veterinarian. She, too, is seeking political office for the first time.
Menz-Kimble said her primary concern is education. Oklahoma is near the bottom in public school funding, which she thinks adversely affects recruiting businesses to the state.
She said she is concerned about efforts this past session to reduce the state's personal income tax, which brings in about $2 billion, or about 30 percent of the money appropriated by legislators.
“Reducing taxes always sounds great, but you still have to find a way to pay for things,” Menz-Kimble said. “That's been my concern with a lot of bills that have been brought up is that we're going to reduce taxes but we still have to pay for roads, we still have to pay for all these things that the government is responsible for and they don't show the other part of the plan.”
Fisher said he supports reducing the personal income tax.
“Every time that we reduce taxation, that puts more money in the pockets of business owners and citizens to spend in the way that they would choose,” he said. “It creates growth financially. Companies will be more prone to come in here.”
Fisher said he is concerned that while members of the Republican-controlled Legislature have talked the past two years of cutting state spending, the state budgets have increased.
Fisher said he also supports changing rules in the House of Representatives so that committees would hold a hearing on each member's bills.
Fisher said he also would like to see more openness in the House.
“Everything kind of happens behind closed doors,” he said. “We need the people to see more. Whenever you close the door, people just automatically suspect that something wrong is going on behind it.”