NORMAN — Two Republicans are vying in the upcoming primary election to represent House District 45 in east Norman: Aaron Stiles, incumbent who currently holds the seat, and Derick Jensen, who has worked frequently as a substitute teacher and adjunct professor.
The GOP winner in the June 26 primary race will face Democrat Paula Roberts in the November general election. Roberts served as secretary of the Cleveland County Election Board for 22 years.
Stiles said Oklahoma leaders should not judge the economic needs of Oklahoma by what other states, like California, are experiencing, such as huge budget shortfalls.
Stiles served in the Oklahoma Air National Guard for eight years.
Jensen has worked for several years as a substitute teacher in the Norman Public Schools, and also has worked as an adjunct instructor at the University of Central Oklahoma.
In 2009 during the legislative session, Jensen worked as an assistant in the student pages’ program.
Roberts, the only Democrat in the race, said she is seeking a seat in the House because she is concerned that the “narrow agenda and radical idealogy” of Republicans “will hurt our state economically.”
When Roberts announced her candidacy in April, she said, “The political polarization in our current legislature is too destructive.”
All three candidates are from Norman. House District 45 contains almost all of Lake Thunderbird, where most of Norman’s growth is occurring.
Derick Jensen, 35, served as a Senate assistant for the pages’ program where high school students assist lawmakers during the 2009 session.
Jensen served for a year in the AmeriCorps performing public service by working with the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits. He received a master’s degree from UCO in 2009.
· Education needs he has learned about, because his wife is a longtime elementary school teacher and he has worked as a substitute teacher. With increasing class sizes, teachers should have assistants “when classes are over 22 students,” he said.
· Veterans’ benefits. His father was a Vietnam soldier. Jensen said the mental health problems of soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have not been addressed.
· Economic development. Jensen noted that Norman’s east side continues to grow while there are needs that aren’t being met, like construction of better roads.
Aaron Stiles, 32, who grew up in Altus, said a main concern he had during the last legislative session was passing a bill to authorize another district judge for Cleveland County. Stiles said he believes in the upcoming 2013 legislative session, he and Sen. Anthony Sykes, R-Moore, will come up with a bill to fund a judge seat.
· Economic recovery facilitated by the Legislature to help particularly small businesses. He was a strong supporter of a bill passed in the 2011 session calling for streamlining licensing procedures for businesses. Some of the requirements could be completed via the Internet, so business leaders would not have to stand in line for hours.
· Sensible use of the $250 million currently in the state’s “rainy day” savings account. He said money in that account should be used for such things as repairing the state Capitol, and reopening the main south entrance. Appropriating money for the repairs would be better than floating another bond issue that would require taxpayers’ repayment over the next 20 years or more.
· Stiles supports legislation to help the plight of children in our society, including those in families undergoing divorce.
Paula Roberts, 59, has lived and worked in Norman for more than 30 years. She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Oklahoma. The candidate said the legislature “can’t cut, cut, and cut some more” without impacting services provided in health and education.
Roberts noted that she spent 10 years as a teacher before becoming election board secretary. She is a breast cancer survivor who is sensitive to health care issues.
· Improved health care for veterans. Roberts said recent newspaper stories have shown that veterans who honorably served their country, are not getting adequate health care. “It is all disheartening,” Roberts said, noting that a frequent problem is that there are not enough workers at these centers.
· Education needs in both common and higher education. Roberts said she taught business law and management at Norman High School for 10 years