Editor’s Note: Canadian and Oklahoma county polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. next Tuesday, April 6 for the State Senate District 22 special election. Yukon Republican Jake Merrick faces Edmond Democrat Molly Ooten, with the winner succeeding Stephanie Bice in the Oklahoma State Senate.
Voters of different political parties across Senate District 22 shouldn’t see themselves as enemies, Molly Ooten said.
“We’re not,” the Edmond Democrat said. “We’re neighbors.
“There are many local issues that have bipartisan support. There’s a lot to collaborate on. There’s a lot to be found in common.”
Ooten, of NW 189th Terrace in Edmond, is winding down her campaign for a vacant State Senate seat.
Ooten, 31, faces Yukon Republican Jake Merrick, 39, in the Oklahoma Senate District 22 special election next Tuesday, April 6. Voters in Canadian and Oklahoma counties will cast ballots to decide the victor.
District 22 is comprised of northern Oklahoma County and eastern Canadian County, including parts of Yukon, Piedmont, Edmond, and Deer Creek.
Realizing she is the underdog in a strong Republican district, the Democrat contender is committed to serving constituents of all political backgrounds if elected as Oklahoma’s newest senator.
“I want to represent everyone,” Ooten said. “That doesn’t mean that I’m going to agree with everyone on every single thing.
“I see myself as a servant leader. Keeping service in mind – at all times – is paramount to being a good representative. People want someone who’s there to serve their interests, and not their own.”
Ooten offers accessibility and the ability to collaborate.
“When you have the humility that it takes to be a servant leader, those are the things that come naturally. I’m here to be a servant. Ultimately, that’s my goal.”
Should she be elected next Tuesday, Ooten is committed to continue “door knocking” and connecting with people across the district.
“I can guarantee I’m going to put the work in,” she said. “That’s why I’m running and that’s why I think I’m the best choice.”
PLENTY OF INFLUENCE
Ooten soundly defeated Dylan Billings in the Feb. 9th primary to earn the Democrat nomination.
“Whoever gets elected in this seat is going to have a lot of influence and a lot of power to make decisions that affect the entire state,” Ooten said. “I don’t take it lightly. I know I’m going to be walking into a pretty extreme minority.
“But I think that makes a Democrat a little better poised to do the collaborative work that is most representative of our democracy.”
Ooten believes voters want to have confidence that their elected representatives are not “stuck in one ideology or the other,” on either end of the political spectrum.
Those elected officials who stay too far to one side “miss out on actually representing the people,” she reasoned.
The April 6th special election was called to fill a vacancy in Oklahoma’s 48-member State Senate.
Republican Stephanie Bice, who was District 22 senator from 2014-20, is part of the freshman class in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Bice defeated Democrat incumbent Kendra Horn in the November 2020 general election to earn a two-year term representing Oklahoma’s 5th congressional district.
The winner in next Tuesday’s special Senate District 22 election will finish the final 21 months of an unexpired four-year term.
District 22 represents these zip codes: 73003, 73012, 73013, 73025, 73078, 73099, 73127 in Canadian County; and 73142 and 73762 in Oklahoma County.
IN THE TRENCHES
Ooten is a speech pathologist. She earned a Master’s degree in Speech Pathology from the University of Oklahoma and is in the process of obtaining another Master’s degree in Public Administration.
Working 6-1/2 years for Oklahoma Sooner Start, Ooten said she’s “been in the trenches” working for families. She hopes to do the same at the State Capitol working for Senate District 22.
“I am an expert communicator,” Ooten said. “In the field of speech pathology, our goal is to give people a voice. And we do it in a very literal way, a practical way.
“This job (state senator) is a little more symbolic, a little more abstract. But the skills that I’ve learned as a speech pathologist apply pretty directly to giving people a voice in government. It takes authentic listening and not performative listening. It takes being in communities.”
When the campaign began months ago for the State Senate District 22 special election, Ooten hoped her message – focused on strengthening education and healthcare – would resonate with voters in those local communities.
As Ooten started canvassing neighborhoods and speaking with residents across District 22, she learned her message has – “in spades.”
“I’m surprised how eager people are to have someone who actually cares who represent them at the State Capitol,” she shared. “I met one woman who’s lived in her home for 23 years and had never had a candidate knock on her door and have a conversation with her.”
When Ooten asks District 22 voters what concerns them about their government, the two topics they mention most are education and healthcare.
Voters also are telling the Democratic nominee they want a senator who is accountable to them.
“They want somebody who listens,” Ooten related. “They want somebody who’s in the community.”
Just as she has during her campaign, Ooten pledges if elected to be responsive and accessible to all voters – no matter their political party.
She remains confident as election day nears and ballots are counted across Senate District 22. Early voting started Thursday and continues through Saturday at county election boards.
“We’ve built a really solid campaign structure,” Ooten said. “Everyone on the team knows their roles.
“We’re doing all the outreach that we possibly can. We’re hoping that people who usually vote in these elections show up. And that some of the people who might not have otherwise voted, get excited enough, see this race as important and show up on the 6th as well.”