After reforming its operating and endorsement procedures, the political arm of the Oklahoma Public Employees Association, OPEAPAC, came roaring back onto the scene with a 91% winning percentage in its first round of endorsements. “The PAC’s Board of Trustees has lit a fuse that is quickly putting OPEA back on the map as one of the most important and powerful endorsements candidates seek,” said OPEAPAC Director Scott Barger. “OPEA and OPEAPAC have sent a clear message that we are a political force with a large and informed membership. A membership that is not happy with being overlooked and taken advantage of. A membership that is willing to invest time and money to elect pro state employee candidates and the primary results are just the first example.”
Here is how the OPEAPAC primary candidates faired.
State Senate Seats:
Senate District 5: Former state representative Jerry Ellis defeated Steve Young. Ellis gathered 63% of the vote and will face a Republican challenger in the General Election.
Senate District 11: Senator Judy Eason-McIntrye was re-elected to another four year term by defeating her challenger with 87 percent of the vote.
House of Representatives:
House District 16: Representative Jerry Shoemake will serve another two year term defeating his challenger and receiving 77 percent of the vote.
House District 53: Representative Randy Terrill swept Republican challenger Curtis Bruehl, gathering 74 percent of the vote on his way to the general election.
House District 57: Jared Deck was defeated by Perry Adams in a close race 51 percent to 49.
House District 68: Speaker Chris Benge defeated his Republican challenger in a landslide victory. Benge gathered 80 percent of the vote on his way to earning another two year term.
House District 73: OPEAPAC-endorsed candidate Representative Jabar Shumate won re-election by defeating Kevin Mathews.
House District 74: Representative David Derby won reelection by gathering 52 percent of the votes in the Republican primary.
House District 95: Michael Walker defeated his opponent winning a chance to complete against incumbent legislator Charlie Joyner in November.
House District 97: Representative Mike Shelton crushed his opponent receiving 91 percent of the vote. Shelton will go on to a general election in November.
House District 99: Representative Anastasia Pittman won, receiving over 90 percent of the vote. She will also move on to a general election in November.
Barger points to several races where OPEAPAC had a significant impact. “In House District 73, Representative Jabar Shumate had a strong challenge from Firefighter Kevin Mathews,” Barger said. “Many politicos jumped ship saying Representative Shumate could not win. OPEAPAC believed in Representative Shumate and in sticking with a legislator that is 100 percent behind state employees. Rep. Shumate won, OPEAPAC won and so did state employees.”
The only disappointment for the OPEA endorsement came when Jared Deck, candidate in House District 57 was narrowly edged out by Perry Adams. “This race was very close coming down to 66 votes,” said Barger. “We will be doing another interview in this race to see which candidate will best represent state employees and making another endorsement.”
Candidates are looking to OPEA and OPEAPAC to help deliver the win for them. “As endorsements go, OPEA is fast regaining the reputation we enjoyed for many years as being a difference maker,” Barger said. “We are quickly becoming a solid voter block that is a ‘must have’ endorsement if a candidate wants an edge. By and large our members are looking to the Association for leadership on good candidates and following our lead. Where there is not a clear choice, our members are setting up candidate forums with candidates to find out first-hand. We have had forums in Ada and Muskogee. We are planning forums in Norman, Chickasha, Duncan as well as another round of OPEAPAC interviews. OPEA is showing we can make a difference. ”
Many members of OPEA, which represents more than 10,000 state employees, are making calls on behalf of candidates, ringing door bells, and passing out literature in an effort to change dynamics at the state legislature. “OPEA is making the difference,” said DHS member Haley Faulkenberry. “I have been a state employee and member of OPEA for a short time but I am quickly realizing this is a dynamic, exciting association that really encourages its membership to take ownership by getting involved. OPEA is bringing back a lot of pride in state service by giving members confidence that we can be a strong political force and have a brighter future.”
“It’s an exciting time,” said Faulkenberry. “OPEA is getting stronger and state officials are taking note!”