Senate District 39 race proving a lively one
BY WAYNE GREENE World Senior Writer
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
10/23/12 at 6:27 AM
Read all the election coverage.
A spirited race in Senate District 39 - the heart of Tulsa - pits a veteran Republican lawmaker against a Democratic challenger.
Education, taxes and abortion are key issues in the contest between Sen. Brian Crain, 51, an attorney, and grant writer Julie Hall, 44.
Hall, who is making her first political race, says she would be a coalition-builder like state Rep. Jeannie McDaniel, D-Tulsa.
But Hall also said she wouldn't be afraid to take a page from the playbook of retiring state Sen. Judy Eason-McIntyre, D-Tulsa, and put up a fight when the cause is just.
Hall said her first goal in the Legislature would be school funding.
Too many distractions - including Crain's proposed "personhood" bill - took the legislative focus off the most important issues facing the state last year, she said.
"The last session was the straw that broke the camel's back for a lot of people," Hall said. "We are in a state of emergency in Oklahoma on several levels."
Although everyone would like to pay lower taxes, Hall said she had found very little support in the district for personal income tax proposals that were being considered by the Legislature last year.
She noted that they came at the same time school districts were complaining that they were getting short-changed in state appropriations.
"It's insane to talk about tax cuts and decreasing our revenues after years and years of being in a recession," she said. "We've cut and we've cut and we've cut."
Hall said she takes umbrage at Crain's personhood bill, which would have granted legal rights to fetuses.
The bill passed the Senate but was never considered by the state House.
"I'd be lying if I didn't say as a woman it felt like a personal affront," Hall said. "As an attorney I think it's unconstitutional, and I think at the state level it's a waste of our time and our resources."
Crain said Hall is wrong about his proposal.
"The personhood bill did nothing to decrease the rights of women," he said. "It recognized the right of unborn children."
Crain said it would be incorrect to conflate his legislation with a similarly named personhood initiative petition that the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional.
He said his bill was based on a Missouri law that had been tested in court and was found to be constitutional.
Crain said he hadn't considered whether he would propose another personhood bill if re-elected.
Hall said that although she respects Crain's pro-life stance, he shouldn't try to impose his personal and religious views on the women of Oklahoma.
Instead of wasting time on sidetrack issues, she said, the state needs a new, bipartisan coalition to get urgent problems resolved.
"Democrats and Republicans have got to work together," Hall said. "I don't get to decide I only represent half the people in my district. Neither does anyone else, and if we do it that way, then we're doing a disservice to our state."
Crain, an attorney, has served in the Senate since 2005. Still, he said he is new to most of his constituents because redistricting last year largely redrew his legislative boundaries.
In campaigning, Crain said he has concentrated on introducing himself to his new constituents and listening to their concerns.
Education is often the first question raised by voters, although Crain said that often includes many issues beyond state funding.
He said he has tried to explain the rationale for the state's A-F grading system for schools and the need for end-of-instruction exams as well as talking about the need to get more money into classrooms.
"Would I like to see more money go to education? Absolutely," he said.
During the final days of the legislative session, Crain pushed for allocating to schools the $25 million that had been set aside for a state income tax cut that never gained legislative approval.
That move wasn't successful, but Crain said he will always be an advocate for adequate school funding.
"I think if all of us had our druthers, we'd love to give the money to the education issue, but we can't do that," he said.
The state has to see to all of its obligations, including health-care funding, public safety, human services and mental-health programs, he said.
Crain said he will continue to support income tax reform, but he was careful to specify that he supports only proposals that are revenue-neutral, meaning they won't cost the state any money for critical programs.
The tax reform measure pushed by Senate Republicans last year would have reduced the state tax rate by eliminating tax credit and rebate programs that were not cost-effective, he said.
"I absolutely believe that we should not cut state revenues," Crain said.
"I think that we can cut our income tax levels below 5 percent, which is very important for use in competing with other states for new businesses to locate here and for businesses to stay in Oklahoma."
During his campaign, Crain said he was surprised by the number of people who have brought up the need for the state to establish rail service between Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
"Passenger rail works for Tulsa. It works for northeastern Oklahoma," he said.
It will take hard work to get funding to improve the rail lines between the two cities to passenger-level quality, Crain said.
Several other problems, including the lack of a train station in Tulsa, need to be addressed, he said.
Crain promised to resist proposals to extend Oklahoma City's train service directly to Newton, Kan., which would bypass Tulsa and exclude the city from passenger rail service.
Original Print Headline: Foes' differences keeping race lively
Wayne Greene 918-581-8308
Sen. Brian Crain and Julie Hall: A Republican, Crain has served in the Senate since 2005. Hall, a Democrat, is making her first political race.