OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Nearly three dozen Oklahoma educators who say they're growing increasingly frustrated by reduced funding and some Republican-backed changes to public education are among those filing for seats Wednesday in the state House and Senate during the first of a three-day filing period in Oklahoma City.
Candidates for all 101 seats in the Oklahoma House and 25 posts in the 48-member state Senate are up for grabs in November, and organizers of a pro-education group on Facebook, Oklahoma Parents and Educators for Public Education, say they've seen an explosion of interest among current and retired teachers in running for office.
About 30 candidates, mostly Democrats, met Wednesday afternoon to file for office together. Several pro-education Republican and independent candidates also are seeking office and in some cases challenging incumbents.
"For me, it's personal," said 39-year-old Republican John Croisant, a sixth-grade geography teacher in Tulsa Public Schools who said he's seen several of his colleagues leave Oklahoma to take teaching jobs in neighboring states for more money. "It's not that we don't want to teach. They're going across the border and they're able to make $10,000 more each year for their families."
Croisant, who is seeking an open House seat in Tulsa, said he believes teachers are mostly frustrated over an increase in the required number of tests that must be administered to students, along with a drop in per-pupil state funding in recent years.
State Rep. Scott Inman, the Democratic leader in the House, said he's never had such an easy time recruiting Democrats to run for office.
"It's no wonder educators from both political parties are mad, frustrated and want to see a change, and that's evidenced by the number of educators who are coming to the Capitol today to file for office, to take on the Republican incumbents, and hopefully take this state in a new direction," said Inman, D-Oklahoma City.
Other offices on the ballot in November include one U.S. Senate seat, five U.S. House posts and a six-year term on the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. All five Republican U.S. House incumbents — Jim Bridenstine, Tom Cole, Frank Lucas, Markwayne Mullin, and Steve Russell — filed for re-election on Wednesday. U.S. Sen. James Lankford said he plans to file Friday for a full six-year term in the U.S. Senate.
The first political candidate in line on Wednesday was Pittsburg County Sheriff Joel Kerns, a Democrat who is running for state Senate.
Kerns said he arrived at the Capitol about 5:30 a.m. and was surprised to see he was the first in line for filing, which started at 8 a.m.
A total of 254 candidates filed for office by 5 p.m., the most candidates on the first day since 2004, said Oklahoma Election Board spokesman Bryan Dean.
Oklahoma candidate filing list: http://bit.ly/23F3lEF
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