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Education, taxes and business top issues for Senate, House

Candidates speak at chamber forum June 3

The Purcell Register
Posted 6/13/24

All six candidates vying to fill the House District 20 seat being vacated by Sherrie Conley (R-Newcastle) and two out of three of the candidates for the Senate District 43 seat were in attendance at …

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Education, taxes and business top issues for Senate, House

Candidates speak at chamber forum June 3


All six candidates vying to fill the House District 20 seat being vacated by Sherrie Conley (R-Newcastle) and two out of three of the candidates for the Senate District 43 seat were in attendance at the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce Political Speaking last week.

Democrat HD-20 candidate Mitchell Jacob and the five Republican candidates, Alivia Snow, Jonathon Wilk, Michael Whaley, Mike Fullerton and Lonnie Burns, traded turns at the microphone June 3 to address about 33 people who had gathered to find out who they are.

Republican State Senate District 43 candidates Jessica Garvin, the incumbent, and Kendall Sacchieri represented their race. Democrat SD-43 candidate Sam Graefe was not in attendance at the speaking.

The Republican candidates will be on the Primary Election ballot next Tuesday, June 18.

Candidates were given five minutes each to introduce themselves and outline some of their talking points before the moderators, Minister Billy Collier from the Newcastle First Christian Church, and local resident Alan Davenport, gave the candidates and the public a 10-minute break so those attending could write questions down to give to the moderators. These were to be asked and answered as time would allow during the two-hour gathering.

In their introductions, the candidates were randomly drawn to see who would speak first.


Mitchell Jacob, a Democrat from Newcastle who will appear unopposed by his party on the general election ballot on November 5, said one of his main concerns was that Oklahoma is ranked 49th in the nation in education.

He said he is concerned about the dismantling of the public education system and the state giving public money to private education.

Jacob said if elected he would work to repeal the Parental Tax Credit Act, and he would question actions by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Ryan Walters.  Jacob said he would work towards addressing Oklahoma’s teacher crisis by passing  a bill that would provide 1,000 students per year with tuition if they promise to work for four years in Oklahoma schools.

Jacob is a resident of the Wyndemere Addition in Newcastle. He has worked in mortgages, banking and as a stock broker. He quit those endeavors to serve his country with the Airborne. He earned two degrees at that time, and was accepted into the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

Alivia Snow, a Republican and a lifetime resident of the Newcastle area, has been a business developer for many years. She said she has brought more than 40 businesses to the state. As might be expected, Snow said she is for fewer regulations for business and she intends to be friendly to small business. She is also for smaller government.

Snow said she is endorsed by the 2nd Amendment Association and she supports right to carry. She believes in transparency in healthcare rights, and in knowing what your children are doing in school. She believes the state should invest more in public education and she supports more funding, but she also believes there should be accountability, and higher standards for teachers and students, as well as better discipline in the classrooms. She is also pro life.

She said she is supportive of law enforcement to the fullest extent of the constitution, and she believes the United States should take care of its own citizens before giving to others.

Snow said she believes in cutting taxes and would start with the overuse of welfare programs such as those causing generational woes within families. She believes that drug testing and training should accompany any welfare program.

Jonathon Wilk, a Republican from Goldsby, has a background in agriculture and oil and gas. He retired after 27 years as a firefighter and he is still a commissioned police officer through the City of Norman. He has served on the Town Board at Washington. He currently serves on the Planning Commission in Goldsby and runs a cow-calf operation while also doing investigation work for insurance companies.

Wilk said his background in building relationships and networking would make him an effective legislator. He said he is concerned about taxes, specifically the property taxes and the discussions about going to a system similar to the one in Texas. He said this system would cripple Oklahoma farmers and ranchers, and will kill public schools.

Wilk said he is going to run a clean campaign, and he will not beat down the other candidates.

Mike Whaley, a Republican from Blanchard, said he is a native Oklahoman and attended the Naval Academy before earning both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degrees at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. He has a coaching and teaching background and was the high school principal in Purcell before becoming an associate director at the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association. He retired from the OSSAA in 2023. Whaley said he also leads Bible studies at his church.

Whaley said this is a critical time in the state and in the nation, but even more so in House District 21 with the tremendous growth.

Whaley said while knocking on doors in the district, he has heard that one of the biggest concerns is the border. He said while it is a national issue, it still impacts Oklahoma.

He said he is not for Oklahoma becoming a place for illegal aliens to come, adding that the nation has a process in place to help non-citizens to attain the American Dream.

Whaley said he is concerned about taxes, inflation and the economy. He is for people keeping as much in their pocketbooks as they can.

At the same time, he said he knows the state has to maintain the services we already have.

Mike Fullerton, a Republican from Newcastle, cited his Christian beliefs, and noted that he grew up on a farm in Stephens County raising cows.

He also did plumbing work when he was younger. He works in the transportation industry for an engineering firm, and is now serving on the Newcastle City Council.

Fullerton noted that small business is important to him, and mentioned transportation, and infrastructure needs as part of his background.

He said he has worked ODOT on its eight-year-plan to keep local projects among those listed and on schedule.

He said he’s worked with a goal of ensuring area roads receive the care and safety precautions they need. Because of his city council work, Fullerton said he knows about water and sewer needs.

He’s been at the capitol off and on for the past four years, working with Representative Brad Boles to get legislation passed concerning roads being beat up by large oil and gas trucks, and paid for by the oil and gas firms.

He believes its important to listen and observe in order to serve.

Lonnie Burns, a Republican from Noble, is an ordained minister and licensed counselor, who works with service members at Tinker Air Force Base. He said he is a former mayor of Blanchard and served on the council there.

Burns said he is a patriot, a church planner, and a published author. Among achievements, he said he helped the area to obtain wide-area dialing for the residents here.

Burns said he feels like service to HD-20 is just another extension of his ministry. He said he doesn’t want to take advantage of anyone, but just wants to help and serve.

Burns said fewer taxes are important to him, and he feels the state income tax should go away. He said senior citizens should be in different brackets when it comes to property taxes.

He said he is for safe communities, jobs and the importance of having the necessary infrastructure in place to accommodate the growth the district is experiencing.

Burns noted that he is for a secure border.


Kendall Sacchieri, is a Republican from Blanchard. She says she is a transplant from southern Illinois where she was raised as a Christian conservative on a large farm.

She noted the long hours driving a tractor doing work on the farm while listening to Rush Limbaugh.

Sacchieri is a graduate of Hillsdale University (now Randall University) where she attended on a volleyball scholarship.

She has a degree in Spanish and was able to study abroad. She taught and coached in Newcastle, worked a short time at Poe and Associates, and she is now the McClain County Assessor.

Sacchieri said the people don’t want the government trying to solve all their problems. She said people are tax tired. She believes that their property taxes need to be understood. She said she would search out ways to get fiscal restraint. She said she’s concerned about inflationary problems.

Sacchieri said she wants fewer government regulations, she wants protections of freedoms, and she wants to protect your pocketbook.

Jessica Garvin, the incumbent Republican SD-43 senator from Duncan, has a degree in Communication and a minor in Industrial and Organizational Psychology from the University of Oklahoma.

She has been in the Long-Term Care business working for a firm which provides pharmaceuticals to senior citizens in 21 states.

She worked for a nursing home chain in Marlow and Duncan and she is the owner of a Hospice in Wichita Falls, Texas.

Garvin touted her work at the capitol which she said includes being an advocate for senior adults in Oklahoma, placing restrictions on marijuana for minors and working on other marijuana issues, defining a male and female and working on biological woman issues, economic development, education issues, and child welfare policy.

She said she is a very policy-driven person and could really care less about the politics. She also noted that being able to serve the people has been the greatest honor of her life.

Sam Graefe, a Democrat from Purcell, filed unopposed for the Democrat ticket in SD-43. He moves on to the November 5 General Election. As noted earlier, Graefe was not in attendance at the political speaking.



During the political speaking, the public was able to ask questions they had written down during the break. The questions were posed about the Oklahoma Oil and Gas industry, cock fighting, a Tax Increment Finance District (TIF), the COVID 19 vaccine, and legislation that might impact Superintendent Walters and the amount of federal education funding the state receives.

All of the candidates were for protection of the oil and gas industry with Wilk, Garvin and Whaley specifically mentioned they are concerned about the Biden Administration mandates.

Jacob said a plan needs to be put into place to use oil and gas responsibly, and for a transition from oil and gas. He also was concerned about the nation having to rely on OPEC. Jacob said the state needs to continue to invest in renewable electricity such as wind and hydro power.

All of the candidates were against cock fighting in Oklahoma, with the exception of Sacchieri, who said she did not know it was a problem in the state since she had moved here from Illinois. She was indifferent.

The candidates all agreed that TIFs are a matter of local control, and can either be beneficial or harmful to an area depending on how they are planned and approved.  Sacchieri noted that when TIFs are proposed locally, they should also go to a vote of the people.

As time was running out for the two-hour political speaking, the final question dealt with Senate Bill 1122, specifically Sections 15 and 16.

These are provisions which require the State Department of Education to accept federal dollars without joint approval from the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House.

And, it states that no State Department of Education funds can be used for the purpose of securing media interviews, public relations, or other public promotional purposes.

Garvin said she would support the governor line-item vetoing those two items from the legislation. She said Walters is a friend of hers and she supports him refusing federal money if it does not line up with Oklahoma values.

Sacchieri said she supports Walters overall and “the media is muddying the waters.”

She said conservative Christian values should govern what goes on in the schools, and that maybe the federal officials will take action on this.

Jacob said he refuses to blindly support any elected official. He said every action taken, bill proposed, and rule made must be independently judged, so that legislators and the public actually know what is being done.

Snow said she would not take federal dollars if they don’t align with core Christian values. She added that if there is a change in the presidency, the public will not have to worry about what’s going into the public schools.

Wilk said, as a Christian, he would echo Snow’s comments.

Whaley said the citizens sent the money to the federal government, and the State needs the money back, adding why would we not want to take care of our children’s needs. Whaley said Oklahoma has an attorney general (Gentner Drummond) who is more capable than any the state has had in awhile. He said the AG could fight to get Oklahoma dollars back.

Fullerton said every dollar the state sends to the federal government should be returned to the state.

Burns said, “We, as citizens, need to have our say and the federal government shouldn’t be able to tell us what to do.”


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