Oklahoma Senate District 16 candidate Mary Boren spoke Friday at the West Wind Unitarian Universalist Congregation, 1309 W. Boyd St. in Norman.

Boren spoke to Democrats at the Cornbread and Beans luncheon where Dems also honored deceased Senate District 16 candidate Claudia Griffith and encouraged donations to the Griffith Scholarship Fund.

Griffith was on the ballot with Boren prior to her death; the runoff election will continue Aug. 28, and people still need to vote.

“Honestly, I wish Claudia was with us here today,” Boren said. “Claudia taught me how to lead during her term as a state representative. She taught me that you can be a leader and a nurturer.”

Educated as an attorney prior to getting a graduate degree in education, Boren worked as a school counselor at Adams Elementary, where a quarter of the students were English Language Learners, she said.

“I know what Claudia gave me,” Boren said. “She gave me the boldness to stand up and advocate for those in need.”

Boren said there is a chess game going on in the state legislature, including possible bills that will attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade at the state level.

“As the state senator for District 16, I will vote to keep Roe v. Wade in Oklahoma, even if it’s overturned by the Supreme Court,” Boren said. “I believe voters in Oklahoma want us to keep Roe v. Wade. I think even pro-life voters want Roe v. Wade to stay as law.”

Boren said Roe v. Wade puts a boundary on government interference.

“Oklahomans want to keep abortion under medical care that can be administered safely and wisely,” she said. “Oklahomans know Roe v. Wade protects the privacy of women.”

Boren said Roe also protects the moral agency of women to make ethical decisions for their lives. 

She said the Republican party operates under a “Father knows best” mentality that dictates moral people should then fall in line with whatever “Father” dictates.

“Women are quite capable of making moral, ethical decisions without ‘Father knows best,’” she said.

Boren said moral language and religion are sometimes misused to oppress others. She was raised in her church and in her home to think for herself, she said. Her mother grew up in Denmark and was raised to value critical thinking.

“I think the Democratic party is better at meeting the pro-life goals than Republicans,” Boren said.

She has a ‘Pro-life Democrat’ bumper sticker on her car, mostly, she said, because it makes Republicans mad.

“I don’t trust the Republicans to be the party that preserves the whole life of a person,” she said. 

But, she continued, Democrats need to do a better job of pointing out the ways they support the entire life, health and education of children from fetus through old age.

“Teachers have been voting for Republicans because of pro-life issues,” she said.

Boren said a pregnant woman in crisis needs health care, money for child care, dignity, food, shelter and education for themselves and their children. 

She said Democrats have done the heavy lifting to provide and support those needs in Oklahoma, while Republicans have been obstructionists.

“We do not have enough affordable housing in Norman; that’s why we have a homeless problem,” Boren said. “I trust Democrats more to do what is needed for a pregnant woman in crisis.”

From food programs for pregnant women to Sooner Care for children and families, Boren believes Democrats are doing a better job of supporting them.

“We need to do a better job in Oklahoma of protecting women,” Boren said.

Boren was born in Abilene, Texas, and grew up in Tipton, Oklahoma. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Cameron University in Lawton. While at Cameron, she was a recipient of the Presidential Leaders and University Scholars scholarship. She also competed on the university debate team and Black History Bowl Competition.

Boren became involved in the Young Democrats and remained active in that group throughout law school. Following law school, she lived in Oklahoma City and worked for the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, followed by the Oklahoma State Department of Education as director of instructional materials, where she was responsible for the adoption and distribution of books to every school in Oklahoma. 

She also was invited by Former state Governors David Walters and Brad Henry to review legislation at the end of sessions to make recommendations after reviewing the law and community comments.

In 2003, Boren and husband, Nathan, moved back to Norman with their three children.

In 2008, after practicing child advocacy law in the Norman and Oklahoma City Metro area, Boren enrolled to complete a graduate degree in education and became a school counselor.