MIAMI – Drew Edmondson, a Democratic candidate for the 2018 Oklahoma Governor’s race, says he wants to take back Oklahoma.
Edmondson and members of his campaign staff came to Miami Friday to share his gubernatorial platform during a luncheon at the Miami Regional Chamber of Commerce and to meet with community members along with area leaders.
A private practice attorney, Edmondson retired from politics in 2011 after 16 successful years serving as Oklahoma’s Attorney General. While remaining an active citizen, he said his ultimate return to the political arena was not planned, but became an evident necessity.
“After 2010, I really thought I was done with politics and was practicing law and taking trips,” said Edmondson. “But the way I put it is I can read, and my wife can read. We looked every morning in the paper about what’s happened in education or health or some other facet of government that we’re interested in. Linda would read me the story, and I would say, ‘Do you want me to run? Do you want me to do something about this?’ and she would say no, and then read another story the next day and finally we agreed that it needed to be done.”
Edmondson said he initially hoped that someone sharing his vision for what needs and can be done for Oklahoma and with state-wide name recognition and the ability to raise money would come along. Instead, he said he was forced to recognize while some had the political stature and funding acumen in place for successful campaigns, they would not implement the changes needed to help the state progress. Others he sees as having the right vision, but lacking the required experience and influence.
“There are a number of people who are well known on the other side of the ticket, and they are not going to make the fundamental changes that need to be made in order to move this state forward,” said Edmondson. “You can listen to their speeches, and they’re talking about cutting more instead of putting resources back in place to invest in Oklahoma.”
“The candidates on my side of the ticket are both very honorable people and very articulate about their positions, but I differ from them in that I have run state-wide,” said Edmondson. “I have won in November in a state-wide race and twice with over 60 percent of the vote including over 60 percent in places that are perceived to be Republican strongholds like Tulsa.”
Making his decision, the former Oklahoma Attorney General announced his plans to run for the Governor’s seat in May opening with a brief, yet poignant statement, “Oklahoma isn’t broken, we’re just broke.”
THE ISSUE: Former Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson is one of 12 candidates vying for the Governor’s seat in 2018. He is currently campaigning on an evolving platform dubbed “Take Back Oklahoma” which he frames as a genuine partnership with Oklahomans that will shape his governorship if elected.
WHY IT MATTERS: The 2018 race for Governor will introduce a new state leader after two consecutive terms under current Gov. Mary Fallin. The election is of particular significance as Oklahoma faces severe and ongoing budgetary shortfalls, which have continually impacted state agencies and their services, especially in rural communities such as Ottawa County.
In July, Edmondson then announced his “Take Back Oklahoma” plan, committing to a governorship that he said would be a genuine partnership with the people. To that end, he has been touring the state this fall to hear directly from Oklahomans and incorporate their concerns and ideas to build a plan for the state’s future.
Edmondson says the Oklahoma way of life is under attack from outside, corporate interests and fiscal mismanagement. He asserts that change can only begin with experienced leadership with the proven ability to successfully advocate for the interests of Oklahomans. Qualities he says he has demonstrated with a track record that includes being one of eight attorneys general to negotiate a record-breaking settlement agreement with the country’s largest tobacco companies in 1998.
Edmondson then went on to lead the charge to establish the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET), which constitutionally protected those settlement funds ensuring it can only be spent on public health. To date, the Tobacco Trust balance stands at more than $1 billion.
In education, Edmondson negotiated a settlement in 2001 with then Southwestern Bell to establish the Oklahoma Educational Technology Trust (OETT) which has since put more than $12 million in technology and training into Oklahoma public schools.
On rural education and teacher retention Edmondson says a series of pay raises are needed to bring Oklahoma to the regional average versus minimal one-time raises.
“Right now, the average of teachers who are leaving the state to go teach in another state is $19,000,” said Edmondson. “We gotta bring it up past $5,000 so good teachers will stay here in Oklahoma, and maybe we could attract some of our Teacher’s of the Year to come back.”
Along with significant raises for teachers, Edmondson says it is critical that the Average Daily Allowance allocated to schools per student must also be increased so that educational infrastructure, such as facilities, technology, textbooks, and transportation can be properly supported.
“If all you do is fund a teacher pay raise, then all the kids are still using outmoded textbooks held together with duck tape,” said Edmondson. “We have to also bring up the level of expenditures per pupil to the schools to get our textbooks current and get our facilities that schools need to teach.
“We need to be investing in higher-ed, we need to be investing in common-ed, and those are the investments that are going to bring business and industry to Oklahoma or incentivize business to expand in Oklahoma. Quality schools, quality talent that they can draw on as employees, and we’re not giving them that now.”
In funding these endeavors, Edmonson advocates returning the gross production tax to a rate of 7 percent and following that up by giving voters the option of putting their personal income taxes back where they were.
“I’m not talking about raising them over any historic level,” said Edmondson. “We did a series of tax cuts and the voters should have the opportunity to decide whether we ought to be rolling those back.”
Auditing and removing investment tax credits that have outlived their usefulness and remain burdens on the state is another way Edmondson believes Oklahoma can get back on track.
“There are laundry lists of investment tax credits and things that have been put on the books to try and encourage business development and job growth that either didn’t work or worked and are no longer necessary,” said Edmondson. “They need to be removed. There are lobbyists in place trying to keep them, but there are no lobbyists working the capitol trying to get rid of them. So it’s not a fair fight. That’s going to change. We’re going to get rid of them or else we’re going to put them on the ballot and let the people vote on them.”
Speaking to Oklahoma’s ongoing budgetary crisis, Edmondson said he has a plan if the legislature fails again with him in the office as Governor – to once again put the decision before the people by proposing a budget plan that would go to a vote.
In discussing rural health concerns, Edmondson said if the option to accept the Medicaid expansion is still on the table if he becomes Governor he would eagerly accept.
“That is absolutely critical to keeping rural hospitals alive and rural nursing homes in business,” he said. “I don’t know if that will still be an option, but if it is, we will accept the Medicaid expansion.”
Edmondson concluded by saying communities like Miami should have every potential to grow with support from the state.
“I think Miami, Ottawa County has a great future. The tribes are partners in economic development and road building and water projects – you have tremendous assets here,” said Edmondson. “There is no reason why Miami shouldn’t be growing just like there is no reason that the state shouldn’t be growing. The only difference is the state has been the victim of mismanagement.”
Originally posted in MiamiOK by Dorothy Ballard. Read the article here.