By Conrad Dudderar
Senior Staff Writer
Editor’s Note: In today’s edition, The Yukon Progress highlights the two Democrat candidates vying to succeed Stephanie Bice representing District 22 in the Oklahoma State Senate. The two Republican contenders were featured in the Jan. 13th edition. A special primary election is Feb. 9 and the general election is April 6.
Molly Ooten and Dylan Billings are vying for the Democrat nomination to fill a vacant seat in the Oklahoma State Senate covering parts of Yukon and Piedmont.
Ooton, 31, of NW 189th Terrace in Edmond; and Billings, 31, of Foxfire Road in Edmond, are among four candidates seeking the complete an unexpired term representing Senate District 22.
A special election has been called to find someone to succeed Republican Stephanie Bice in Oklahoma’s 48-member State Senate.
Congresswoman Bice, who served in the State Senate from 2014-2020, is part of the freshman class in the U.S. House of Representatives. Bice, 46, defeated Democrat incumbent Kendra Horn in the Nov. 3rd general election to earn a two-year term representing Oklahoma’s 5th congressional district.
Four candidates – two Democrats and two Republicans – will appear on a Feb. 9 primary ballot for the special Senate District 22 election.
The Republican candidates are Jake A. Merrick, 39, of NW 100th Street in Yukon; and Keri Shipley, 48, of Water Oak Circle in Edmond.
The top-vote getters from each political party in the Feb. 9th primary with face off in an April 6 general election. The winner will then finish the final 21 months of the unexpired four-year term.
District 22 is comprised of northern Oklahoma County and eastern Canadian County, including parts of Yukon, Piedmont, Edmond, and Deer Creek.
The district represents these zip codes: 73003, 73012, 73013, 73025, 73078, 73099, 73127 in Canadian County; and 73142 and 73762 in Oklahoma County.
A speech pathologist and lifelong Oklahoman, Ooten wants to serve because she believes “we need leadership who listens.”
“Politics has become divisive and personal,” she said. “I want to bring kindness and integrity to the State Capitol.”
Ooten thinks Oklahoma needs a State Senate filled with the voices of “everyday folks” like her.
“If you’re a working parent, you know that Oklahoma’s elected leaders have left us behind with little support,” the Democrat contender added.
“We need regular Oklahomans at the table to ensure the politicians listen and respect our needs.”
A registered member of the Democratic Party, Ooten said she’ll fight for everyone – regardless of political affiliation.
Ooten has a dual degree in Communication Sciences and Disorders and Spanish from Harding University in Arkansas.
She earned a Master’s degree in Speech Pathology from the University of Oklahoma and is in the process of obtaining a second Master’s degree in Public Administration.
Oooten has worked the last six years as a speech pathologist for Oklahoma County SoonerStart, an early intervention program serving local children and their families.
In this role, she’s trained fellow employees, been a guest lecturer at the University of Central Oklahoma and presented at state conferences in the speech pathology field.
She also completed a national training program that develops and supports people with disabilities.
Oooten says she looks forward to taking her “fresh ideas and outlook” to the Oklahoma State Senate and wants to “fight for Oklahoma families.”
An Edmond native, Billings is a political science instructor who says he’s spent his entire life in Oklahoma “getting an education, raising a family and working to pay the bills.”
Billing is concerned about a government that “refuses to consider how their actions today” will affect his children in the future.
Key issues in Billings’ campaign platform include:
• Education: Invest in new technology and classroom resources, expand investment in early childhood education, increase teacher pay, and avoid education funding cuts.
• Jobs and economic security: Make college more affordable, fix broken roads and bridges and focus on legislation that builds an Oklahoma economy equipped for the 21st century.
• Healthcare and Addiction: Expand Medicare as voters demanded through S.Q. 802, resist attempts to privatize Medicare, providing paid family and medical leave for workers, treat drug abuse and addiction as health issues, and work with communities and school districts to contain COVID-19 outbreaks.
• Criminal Justice Reform: Continue to reduce state prison overcrowding, stop allowing people to profit from incarcerating others, allow some non-violent offenders to complete sentences through alternative means, and allow those with convictions to find jobs and properly reenter society.
• Fixing Democracy: Expand access to early voting, institute automatic voter registration, encourage participations of citizens of all political allegiances by recognizing minor parties, and establish an independent redistricting commission so politicians can no longer choose their own voters.
Billings has a bachelor’s degree from the UCO and a PhD in Political Science from OU.
Thirteen polling precincts in Canadian County will be open for the Feb. 9th special Senate District 22 primary election:
• Surrey Hills Baptist Church, 12421 N Mustang Road in Yukon
• Yukon First Church of the Nazarene, 525 E Main in Yukon
• Bethel Community Church – Bradford Family Life Center, 4901 N Sara Road in Yukon
• First United Methodist Church, 400 Elm in Yukon
• Yukon Fine Arts Auditorium, 850 Yukon Ave. in Yukon
• Town & Country Christian Church, 2200 S Cornwell in Yukon
• Yukon Church, 11715 NW 10th in Yukon
• Covenant Community Church, 2250 Yukon Parkway in Yukon
• Discovery Church, 900 E Main in Yukon
• Dale Robertson Center, 1200 Lakeshore Drive in Yukon
• Light Your World Church, 4550 NW Expressway in Okarche
• Piedmont United Methodist Church, 2525 N Piedmont Road in Piedmont
• Piedmont First Baptist Church, 15 Jackson Ave. NW in Piedmont