Oklahoma Engaged

Quinton Chandler / StateImpact Oklahoma

Integrity, experience and a plan for change are the keys to some voters’ support in Hughes, Pontotoc and Seminole counties, which are all represented by the same district attorney’s office.

Voters in the three rural counties are set to elect a new district attorney for the first time in 28 years. Twice in the last three decades, the governor selected District 22 residents’ head prosecutor after the previous one retired.

Emily Wendler / StateImpact Oklahoma

If Daryl Fisher, a supervisor at a group home for young men, could fix one thing in Oklahoma, it would be education.

“Everybody always focuses on kids,” he said in an interview at a gas station in downtown Oklahoma City. “But are we really focusing on kids when we’re opening up more jails, trying to make more room, and not educating them? Are we really focusing on them?”

Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

As the 2018 election season hits a fever pitch in Oklahoma, residents across the state are scrutinizing the credentials of the candidates. And with November 6 just three weeks away, some new political concerns are coming to light.

When Oklahoma’s public radio stations started the Oklahoma Engaged series this spring, there was one big issue center stage in Oklahoma: education.

While education is still a crucial issue, other topics are percolating. In Northeastern Oklahoma, it is again the issue of water quality.

Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

On a hot Monday afternoon, Zora Sampson stands behind rows of chairs set up in the lobby of the hospital in Pauls Valley. Sampson supports the Democratic candidate for Governor Drew Edmondson — and turned up to hear his plan to help rural hospitals.

Caroline Halter / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

John Carpenter is a yoga instructor in Choctaw. He previously worked as a probation officer, and before that he owned a construction company. And Carpenter recently organized his community’s opposition to the Eastern Oklahoma County Turnpike.

“Ultimately we didn't stop the turnpike,” Carpenter said. “But it got me politically involved.”

Now Carpenter’s trying something new once again. He’s campaigning as a Democrat to be House District 101’s next state representative.

Caroline Halter / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

Mike Couke runs the Comanche County Democratic Party out of a one-room office nestled between a laundromat and a barbershop in Lawton. This year, he’s focused on training local Democrats to make better use of voter lists ahead of the general election.

“The best way to reach voters is to knock on doors. And that's one thing the list gives you is physical addresses,” Couke said.

Larry Bush, a Democrat running for Lawton’s House District 62, sits next to him. He’s running for a second time after losing in 2016.

Jackie Fortier / StateImpact Oklahoma

Brendhan Fritts’ optometry practice in Duncan is filled with brightly colored displays of models in designer glasses, pamphlets on the importance of routine eye care — and posters against State Question 793.

It doesn’t look like a scene for political discussions, but with the November election looming, Fritts is having more and more conversations with his patients.

“‘How do you want me to vote?’ Is basically what they ask me. ‘What do you want me to do?’ And I say, ‘I want you to vote no for these reasons,’” Fritts said.

Kurt Gwartney / Oklahoma Engaged

Oklahoma’s claim to the buckle of the Bible belt is widely accepted as true. But when it comes to faith and voting, new research shows more residents are letting their political values influence the church they choose.

At a recent weekly Sunday morning donut hour at Faith United Methodist Church in Tulsa, people are busy talking about the start of school and the college football season while getting their weekly dose of juice, coffee and donuts.

Caroline Halter / Oklahoma Public Media Exchange

Before it happened to her son, Donna Tocknell thought addiction was something that happened to other people.

“Growing up, you know, people who did heroin or meth were scum of the earth,” she said. “Until it hit me with my kid, and I’m thinking, ‘My kid’s not scum.’”

That was in 2011. Now Tocknell runs Agape Always Recovery Center, a transitional housing program for recovering addicts in Altus, a city of close to 20,000 near Oklahoma’s border with Texas.

A political outsider will be the Republican party's nominee for governor.

Kevin Stitt, a Tulsa businessman, defeated former Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett in Tuesday's Republican primary runoff. Stitt defeated Cornett 55 to 45 percent. 

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