Nicole Kish has announced her bid for the 2022 mayoral race in Norman.

As of Friday, the Norman optometrist faces incumbent Breea Clark and fellow challenger Larry Heikkila in the race.

A 22-year Norman resident, Canadian immigrant and self-identified conservative, Kish said she hopes to bring a balance between issues conservatives and liberals face.

Kish also said if elected, she will aim to restore $865,000 the council reallocated from the Norman Police Department’s proposed budget increase in June 2020. The candidate said she saw that decision as a move in the wrong direction, as did a group of citizens who formed Unite Norman to restore police funding and attempt to recall several city councilors and the mayor.

“We’re not going to be able to attract businesses here if we don’t have a safe city,” Kish said. “I definitely want to refund the police department and get them up to speed, because public safety is important.”

Kish said she also wants to ensure the city is bringing money in and not overspending. She noted the city needs to make it easier for people to do business in the city — she said students at the University of Oklahoma often leave “because there’s nothing keeping them.”

If elected, Kish will join her partner, Ward 5 Rarchar Tortorello, on the dais. According to the City Charter, a conflict of interest exists for married couples and those in a councilor’s immediate family

But Kish said that does not mean they will share votes on that basis.

“Rarchar and I have known each other for a little over a year, but we’re independent thinkers,” she said. “We come from different backgrounds. I’ve run a business for 22 years in this city, so I’ve definitely got my opinions about how this city should be run. I think it should be run like a business. We love each other, yes, but love is love and business is business.”

Kish faced backlash earlier this year after attending then-President Donald Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021 rally. She filed a lawsuit against Norman residents who shared her social media photos from the day, alleging defamation. The case was later dismissed, and remains on appeal to the state supreme court.

It followed a year of policies and movements that got national attention dominating city council meetings, as protests against police brutality stretched across the nation and COVID-19 put businesses under economic strain and residents out of work.

“I’ve been seeing how things are going and what’s been happening, the city really needs a conservative. We need to center the city and we need fiscal conservatism,” Kish said. “Earning the public trust in the city is important.”

Kish graduated from Eastern Illinois University in 1993 with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and from Pacific University’s College of Optometry with a Doctorate of Optometry in 1997. She served in the Air National Guard as an optometrist for five years before she was honorably discharged as a captain.

“I came in on a student visa in 1989 to North Dakota,” she said. “The educational opportunities in the United States are much, much better for the career field that I was looking into. I love it here. The freedom, the educational opportunities if you work hard, you will be successful here. It’s a great country.”

She said her experience as a medical professional, business owner and someone who bases decisions on data and serves patients in all walks of life will translate well if she is elected.

“Every patient is a decision, and it’s an important decision. These are people’s lives, their health. When you’re able to do that, it makes sense to do something like run for mayor in city government,” she said. “That’s all you should be doing as a government official — you need to be taking data, make decisions on it and do the absolute best you can with every bit of information that you get.”

Kish said her bid for mayor is not a political stepping stone, but an effort “to get this city back on track.”

Elections for council wards and mayor are typically held in February, with a filing period in early December. The election date and filing period has not yet been set by the council and county election board.

Mindy Wood covers City Hall news and notable court cases for The Transcript. Reach her at mwood@normantranscript.com or 405-416-4420.

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