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Wednesday, June 20th, 2018Last Update: Friday, June 1st, 2018 10:41:02 AM

Governor Candidates at Randall University Forum

By: Constitution Staff

Seven candidates participated in the November 7th governor candidate forum at Randall University in Moore. Randall recently changed its name from Hillsdale Free Will Baptist College, but remains a Christian liberal arts college associated with that denomination.

The seven candidates who participated included three Republicans – former state Representative Dan Fisher; State Auditor Gary Jones; and former U.S. Attorney Gary Richardson. Only one Democrat accepted the invitation, former state Senator Connie Johnson. Three Libertarians also participated. They were Rex Lawhorn, Joseph Madonado, and Chris Powell.

Three other Republicans – Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett; Lieutenant Governor Todd Lamb; and businessman Kevin Stitt – were also invited, but did not attend. Former Attorney General Drew Edmondson, a Democrat, also did not attend.

The seven candidates who accepted the invitation to participate answered questions from the audience.

Steve Byas, editor of the Oklahoma Constitution, and also a history professor at Randall, served as the moderator. Two Democrats and two Republicans selected the questions submitted on note cards, in order to avoid duplication, targeted questions, and “gotcha” questions.

Most of the candidates clearly stated that they believe “taxes are too high,” with some exceptions. State Auditor Gary Jones said, “Some taxes are too high, some are too low.” Connie Johnson, the lone Democrat, opposes passing the tax burden onto the poor, asking, “(H)ow is it that our government allows the 1 percent to pay fewer and says to the 98 percent we’re going to increase your taxes?”

Gary Richardson said, “There should be no consolidation of schools. I believe in local control, and local school boards should run local schools.” Dan Fisher said, “We spend so much on overhead and on bureacracy. But I also believe we have lost sight of the key reason for education.” Gary Jones said, “We need to quit encouraging so many of these kids to go to college who don’t want to go.” He explained that many need to learn a trade rather than going to college. Joe Maldanado said that a big problem in education is “there’s no discipline.”

Regarding mental health, Richardson said, “I do believe the government has a role to play. And as governor you have to have a heart to truly make a difference in these people’s lives.” Chris Powell said, “I work for the Oklahoma City Police Department, and I spent time as a 911 dispatcher. I talked to people with mental health issues. Police officers, though they are well-trained, are not mental health professionals. We have to go through the agency and examine how they are dealing with this problem and treat these people as individuals.” Joe Maldonado used his time on this question to ask if Richardson had ever considered suicide or if he had ever done meth, to which Richardson replied, “No, I haven’t.”

Maldanado said that drug users need to be in a drug program, rather than in prison. Richardson said that he was opposed to private prisons, adding that he would “institute a one-week training program for every new prosecutor based on the fact that it’s about justice, not throwing people in jail.” Jones said, “While the legislators want to talk about being tough on crime, a better method would be being smart on crime. We’ve got to stop the revolving door.” Johnson said, “We improve the criminal justice system by removing the situation that got us here: the war on drugs.”

One issue that seemed to unite all seven candidates was opposition to civil asset forfeiture, the government policy in which private property of an accused person can be taken before conviction. They also all said they favored religious liberty, although it was clear to the discerning in the audience that they really have different interpretations as to what that means.

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