Senate-18 race reaches home stretch

Yukon Republicans Stewart, Zearley campaign for ‘new’ seat; election decided June 28

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By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

A race for a “new” Canadian County seat in the Oklahoma State Senate seat will be decided in the Tuesday, June 28 primary election.

Two Yukon Republicans are seeking voter support as they campaign for a four-year term representing Senate District 18, which will officially move from eastern Oklahoma after the 2022 election cycle.

Since Jack Stewart and Hunter Zearley were the only candidates to file, the race will be decided in the Republican primary.

Stewart, of Meadow Run Court, is a three-term Canadian County commissioner. Zearley, of Rutland Terrace, works for the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Each man was asked why he believes he is the best candidate to represent Senate District 18.

Stewart cited his 12 years of service as an elected Canadian County commissioner.

“I have lived here and experienced the rapid growth,” Stewart said. “I know the personality of the citizenry.”

The District 18 contender pointed out that he has always been accessible and willing to meet to address people’s concerns.

“I have worked with our local senators and representatives for years in various meetings and at the Capitol, advocating for adequate funding for these infrastructure needs,” Stewart said. “I have personally observed how the system works and doesn’t work.

“For any kind of success, collaboration has to occur, and I have years of being able to work with others.”

Zearley cited the work he’s done “in and around” the state Capitol over the past few years. He wants to use his expertise to serve this district by advocating for conservative values.

Hunter Zearley

“I know the process,” Zearley said. “I have working relationships with many of the legislators. I have the knowledge and expertise of the bill process, the budget process and helping get problems solved for constituents.”

Zearley referred to endorsements he has received from the Oklahoma State and Yukon Fraternal Order of Police, the Oklahoma City Firefighters Local Chapter 157, the Professional Firefighters of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce.

He believes these endorsements show that he is “passionate about protecting the pillars of our communities, including our law enforcement, firefighters and our small businesses.”

Eligible voters will cast ballots from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. June 28 in the primary election.

The Canadian County Election Board offers early voting from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday, June 23-24 and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 25 at 314 W Rogers in El Reno.

The winner in next Tuesday’s District 18 primary will earn the next four-year term in the 48-member Oklahoma Senate.

The current District 18 senator, Kim David (R-Porter), could not seek another term due to term limits. She has been in office since Nov. 17, 2010.

Oklahoma’s state senators may not serve more than three consecutive, four-year terms.

Sen. David’s third term will end Nov. 23, 2022, and her successor will assume office within two weeks representing Senate District 18.

District 18’s revised boundaries will include a significant part of the Yukon area and Oklahoma City in eastern Canadian County and Bethany and Woodlawn Park in western Oklahoma County.

Senate District 18 will cover most of Yukon city limits, except for south of Interstate 40 and west of Mustang Road. The new district lines go into effect this November after the general election.

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CANDIDATES SHARE VIEWS, BACKGROUND

Senate District 18 candidates Stewart and Zearley were asked to respond to these questions about their qualifications, views and the campaign. Here is what they shared with readers:

Please share highlights of your personal and professional background.

STEWART: I am a registered professional civil engineer who has been practicing for over 40 years. I have overseen design, construction, and maintenance of numerous miles of roads and bridges. I have been the Oklahoma Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) Geometric Design Engineer, having designed numerous interchanges across the entire state of Oklahoma. I am also a Certified Floodplain Manager, past president of the Oklahoma Traffic Engineers Association, served four years on the OSU-Civil Engineers’ Board of Visitors and am currently the chairman of the Canadian County Long-Term Disaster Recovery Committee, as well as being the State Chair of the Resource Conservation & Development Councils. I have been married to wife Jan for 46 years, and we have three daughters and four grandchildren. We have been members of Covenant Community Church in Yukon for over 25 years.

ZEARLEY: My wife Katelyn and I met while attending the University of Oklahoma where we both received our bachelor’s degrees. My wife went on to receive her Master’s from Oklahoma State University while I completed my Master’s from the University of Oklahoma. We decided to make our home and plant our roots in Yukon in Westbury South. I’ve spent my professional career working for conservative and business causes throughout Oklahoma. Currently, I serve the Oklahoma Speaker of the House Charles McCall and Republican leadership as Appointments Director and Leadership Assistant.

Describe the type of response you’ve received from District 18 constituents during the campaign, and any particular concerns they’ve shared.

STEWART: Many are very excited to hear that I have decided to get in this race. They are glad that they will have a personal advocate at the state level, someone they’ve known for many years. We’ve received a lot of concerns, but almost all are at the federal government level. As a state senator, I will do all in my power to pushback against federal government overreach in every area that should instead be within the jurisdiction of the state of Oklahoma. I will advocate for states’ rights. Locally, several have expressed interest in the possibility of lowering personal property tax while others are curious about school district concerns.

ZEARLEY: Since I’ve been knocking doors and traveling across the district for the past five months, I have enjoyed getting to know each and every person at the doorstep. I share their concerns about federal overreach, high inflation and gas prices and ensuring our education system works for kids and parents. I’m grateful that so many are supporting my candidacy and share in our desire to restore conservative principles to every level of government.


What specific qualifications do you possess that you will utilize if elected to the State Senate?
STEWART:
The Senate District 18 area is almost entirely an urban/city entity. As such, there are many infrastructure issues that need to be addressed. Being a civil engineer, I have a broad understanding of the best way to do this. Additionally, having been in management level positions for a large part of my 40-plus years working, I understand how various ideas need to be melded to get the single best solution. As a county commissioner, we have had to increase the size of our county jail. I therefore understand the critical need for criminal justice reform, if for no other reason than to bring taxpayer costs down. As an engineering manager and as a county commissioner, I have managed multi-million-dollar budgets for the majority of my career.

ZEARLEY: During my time working for the Speaker of the House Charles McCall and Republican Leadership, I have helped the Speaker and appointees with appointments to various Oklahoma Boards and Commissions. Perhaps the most fulfilling part of my job is working alongside Republican Representatives and helping them pass meaningful conservative reforms that push back against federal overreach and the Biden administration. I have honed my expertise in the bill process, the budget process, and most importantly, building the coalitions needed to pass reform. I won’t miss a beat using those skills for Canadian County and Western Oklahoma County in the State Senate.


What attracted you to running for this statewide office, especially with District 18 being “new” to Yukon and Canadian County?

STEWART: Upon completion of the national 2020 census count and the 2021 senate redistricting, Yukon, Bethany, and west Oklahoma City received their own state senate seat. Because it encompasses a large part of the citizenry of Canadian County Commissioner District 3, I realized that I could be the absolute best fit for being able to take the citizens’ issues to a state level. We have lived in this area for over 36 years and have seen it grow astronomically. Growth in this area, although having benefits, has brought issues that need to be addressed. I have observed the growth personally, and I have the background to best be able to address these issues.

ZEARLEY: There are many ways that people can serve their community. My parents always taught that everyone owes it to the next generation by serving their community. My brother serves his community by being a doctor, while my wife works with veterans. With my experience at the state Capitol, to advocating for pro-business groups, to working a nonprofit afterschool program, I’ve seen how conservative values work for our families and our communities. And, I’ve learned the dangerous consequences of following a path so many other states and cities are experiencing. I can’t sit by and watch my home become like California or Chicago. Oklahoma is special. It’s home. I feel a calling to use my life experience of getting conservative reform to get to work for my neighbors and their families. We have too much at stake for us to sit on the sidelines.


Briefly discuss any key issues you plan to address as a new state senator.

STEWART: Obviously, transportation and travel congestion will be at the top of the list. Immediately behind that will be other infrastructure issues such as water and sewer (both are inadequate and outdated). Next on the agenda will be public safety. This would not only be roads and bridges for the traffic but also law enforcement. City police departments and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol are currently understaffed and underpaid. This has made it extremely difficult for these agencies to recruit top-notch candidates to these critically important positions. I would work to improve this situation as much as possible. And as has been mentioned previously, criminal justice reform needs to be addressed, and criminal activities, such as the school shootings and others, have to be stopped.

ZEARLEY: Government should not be involved in our daily lives, aside from a few things we, as taxpayers, pay it to do. It does way too much and, as a consequence, isn’t very good at doing the jobs it should. If I am elected as the State Senator for District 18, I will be a voice for my constituents. We’ll work toward policies that protect us from a hostile administration in Washington and from woke groups at home. We’ll look to get taxpayer dollars back in their pockets. And we’ll work to continue the sound financial management of the state by balancing the budget and keeping government within its constitutional limits. With these core principles in place, we can tackle an educational system that pits teachers against parents and leaves kids behind. We can respond to any overreach the Biden administration tries to throw at us and, we can get our economy in Oklahoma on sound footing by instituting conservative fiscal and business policies.


What will you do to improve the quality of life and well-being of people across District 18?

STEWART: The fact that we have been in the fastest growing area of the state for at least the last 12 years is an indication that quality of life is good here now. Part of the reasons for this are the fantastic school systems that we have in this area, along with the fact that people feel safe. With the rapid growth, a lot of the infrastructure systems such as roads, water, sewer, and broadband are currently undersized with the huge population growth we’ve seen in the last dozen years. To be able to sustain this quality of life, upgraded systems will need to be designed and placed. Funding to be able to do this will be critical to the three cities of Oklahoma City, Bethany, and Yukon. I will be both accessible and available to people who can call me with their concerns.

ZEARLEY: Our area has been growing exponentially. Growth is positive and we should continue this trend. However, if we don’t prepare for it, it could come at a cost to our quality of life. We need to look at investing more into our infrastructure for our area, not just roads and bridges but our water and sewer systems as well. Our area was not built to withstand the population explosion that we have had so we must look at ways to get more investment into our area. As your state senator I would be committed to working with local and state leaders to help get the funds and resources to our area to help fix these issues so future families can enjoy this area as much as we do.

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