Editor’s Note: This is the first of two feature stories profiling candidates for the State Senate District 22 general election set April 6. Yukon Republican Jake Merrick faces Edmond Democrat Molly Ooten in the special election to fill a vacancy in the Senate. The winner will succeed Stephanie Bice, who was elected to Congress, and complete the final 21 months of an unexpired term.
By Conrad Dudderar
A constitutional conservative who wants to bring his Biblical worldview to the state Capitol, Yukon’s Jake Merrick believes he best represents the values of Senate District 22.
Merrick, 39, is the Republican nominee for a special election to fill a vacancy in the 48-member Oklahoma State Senate. Merrick recently won the Republican primary and will face Edmond Democrat Molly Ooten, 31, in the Tuesday, April 6 general election.
The Republican contender believes strongly in individual liberties, limited government, and the free market system.
“My main focus – my main agenda – is preserving the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and freedom,” said Merrick, who lives in Surrey Hills. “That’s what District 22 values the most.”
If elected to the Oklahoma State Senate, Merrick wants to ensure lines of communication are opened and remain open among lawmakers on the both sides of the aisle “so we’re able to sit down and discuss what’s best for the state.
“At the same time, we must refuse to compromise our principles and values that undergird the reasons we’re making these decisions in the first place,” he said.
Merrick is grateful for the support among Republican voters in the Feb. 9th primary after defeating Edmond’s Keri Shipley by a 58.42% vote majority (2,328-1,657).
“I’m very humbled and appreciative of all the voters who turned out,” he said. “It was a cold day and not ideal conditions, but people still got out to vote. That made all the difference.”
Merrick is seen as the front-runner in April’s general election because of the strong Republican majority among the electorate across District 22.
Merrick and his supporters don’t want to see the district flip to a Democrat.
“We want to encourage and remind people to get out again and vote,” Merrick said. “We are confident we can win this easily, as long as Republicans come out to vote.
“We are fighting for the same values that the majority of people hold in the district. I’m going to continue to fight for these values in legislation.”
Senate District 22 is comprised of eastern Canadian County and northern Oklahoma County, including parts of Yukon, Piedmont, Edmond, and Deer Creek.
There is a vacancy in the Oklahoma State Senate because former Sen. Stephanie Bice was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
Bice served six years representing District 22, leaving the state office at the end of 2020 to become Oklahoma’s 5th District congresswoman.
CONNECTING WITH VOTERS
Merrick plans to connect with more voters in the coming weeks during the general election campaign. He wants to attend as many town hall meetings and “meet and greets” as possible to connect face-to-face.
“We want to see and hear from people directly,” the GOP contender said. “We value that.”
Election integrity is a concern among voters in Senate District 22 and across Oklahoma. Candidates for elected office recognize if people question whether their vote will count, they are less likely to head to the ballot box on election day.
“We do have a very good election system here in Oklahoma that can be trusted,” Merrick said. “And we’re constantly looking at ways we can improve it.”
Another issue on the minds of voters are mask and vaccine mandates in the age of COVID-19. Merrick is opposed to mandates, believing it should be the right of every individual and every business to decide what’s best for them, their family and business.
“At the same time, we use common sense and we use mutual honor and respect for each other,” he said. “As long as we do this, then we will do whatever we can to protect each other and our state.”
Merrick shares parents’ desire for their children to be in classrooms mingling with student peers and engaging with teachers. Many students have been restricted to remote, on-line learning for long periods over the past year due to COVID-19 shutdowns.
Parent choice is high on Merrick’s priority list. He wants Oklahoma parents to have the right to place their child in the educational environment that’s best for the student, and ensure all parents have the funding resources to make this possible.
Citing the immense population and business growth of the Yukon and Piedmont area, Merrick plans to be a strong Canadian County voice in the State Senate.
DON’T THREATEN MY RIGHTS
Merrick was asked why he decided to run for Senate District 22.
“It really comes down to the critical nature of the times that we’re living in where some of our most fundamental rights are being threatened,” he explained. “We’re seeing this on a national level. It’s almost far-fetched for some to think about our rights and liberties being challenged and compromised here in Oklahoma because we’ve lived so long as a conservative state enjoying these liberties.
“But we’re seeing a real threat – now more than ever. Not only nationwide, but actually in our home state. So, it’s more important than ever that we keep this district ‘red’; that we keep it conservative.”
Merrick wants to ensure his children don’t grow up in what he called a “socialistic Oklahoma.”
“We must do everything we can to emphasize the values we’ve held for so long in Oklahoma, we pass them on to our children and we ensure that liberal propaganda is not being taught in our schools,” he said.
“From the ground up, we need to re-examine everything we’re doing, as a society, as a culture, cities, towns, and state. What are we doing to ensure that freedom is prioritized? If we lose it, it won’t be easy to get back.”
Merrick has been in ministry for the past 15 years and has owned his own businesses – in health and fitness and construction. He and his wife have been married 10 years and have two daughters.
Family has been key in his campaign.
“It’s always been our primary focus,” Merrick said, “because we believe families are the ‘building block’ of our society. As family goes, so goes the nation, so goes the state.
“We want to make sure we do everything we can to preserve and protect traditional marriage and families here in Oklahoma.”
An Elk City native who grew up in Texas, Merrick and his wife met and were married in Yukon.
“Canadian County is very important to us,” he shared. “It’s where we live and where we do business. It’s our home turf, and we want to make sure we protect it.”
Merrick always wants to be available to constituents. If anyone want to reach out to talk or arrange a “meet and greet” or town hall meeting, email firstname.lastname@example.org
His campaign website is Jakeforthestate.com