Hofmeister hits education themes in gubernatorial race | New

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ADAOk so. – Joy Hofmeister admits her gubernatorial run is a long shot, but thinks Oklahomans are ready for change, tired of political division and want a better future for their children even if it means electing an “aggressively moderate” Democrat “.

“Oklahoma is at a crossroads if we don’t have leaders, a governor, who can understand and connect education, health care, infrastructure, and good jobs in building a strong economy.” , she said. “You can’t have one without having the other.”

Hofmeister, who is now superintendent of public instruction, sent shockwaves when she changed her lifetime party affiliation from Republican to Democrat and said she planned to challenge incumbent Gov. Kevin Stitt, who is seeking a second term.

His stump speech attempts to capitalize on the growing anger and fear over the Republican-controlled Legislature’s school voucher proposal. She points to the slump in student achievement hampered by years of inadequate public school funding, weak overall student support and lagging teacher salaries.

And, she says, she frequently hears of a growing resentment that rural Oklahoma is being left behind.

Rural areas still lack access to broadband, she said, and the Department of Transport is prioritizing the urban core. The two-lane rural roads where the deadliest crashes occur remain neglected even as Stitt, she claimed, is focused on spending billions to extend a tollway in Norman that nobody wants. Rural Oklahomans also struggle to access medical care, hospitals and nursing homes and have lagging health outcomes, she said.

Hofmeister said Oklahoma’s tribal nations impact the state’s economy by $15.5 billion each year and are collectively the state’s largest employer, so she plans to work with the next state attorney general to make new pacts following the US Supreme Court’s McGirt decision, which found that much of eastern Oklahoma remains reservation land. Tribal sovereignty issues, including mineral rights and tax payments, are “before the courts now, and so they will be resolved.”

She said Stitt shattered the state and, rather than working to unify people, was “sowing chaos and division and pitting neighbor against neighbor.”

“We must end the division and chaos that Governor Stitt has sown and sever the relationships that are sinking our state into the ground,” Hofmeister said. She also told a group of heads of state at a forum in Seminole that she wanted to “be a safety net for the crazies.”

“I believe Oklahoma needs to rebalance itself,” she said. “Extremes don’t serve Oklahoma well. And I want to help bring Oklahomans more to the center where we really get things done by valuing faith, family, education, and hard work.

With weeks to go, Hofmeister travels the state trying to gather votes. On a recent Tuesday, she met potential voters at a coffee shop in Shawnee, attended a candidate forum in Seminole and visited a Mexican restaurant in Ada ahead of a fundraiser in Tulsa.

His stump speeches avoid his stance on abortion. She said she was anti-abortion, but Stitt “represents extreme law that harms” and “is an assault on women and doctors.”

Abortion is a health care decision between a woman and her doctor, Hofmeister said. She thinks Oklahoma’s abortion laws should be expanded to include exceptions for rape and incest. In addition, laws criminalizing doctors who perform abortions and provisions that encourage neighbors to sue for “a $10,000 reward” should be repealed.

And even as she campaigned in Ada, Stitt signed a bill that would ban OU Health from providing gender transition services to transgender youth under the age of 18. He also called for a statewide ban on these surgeries and hormone treatments.

When asked about it, Hofmeister said she needed time to consider the matter, but added, “We need to work to support the health of all Oklahomans, and we need to focus on those experts in the medical community and we need less government. intervention in the lives of patients with their doctors.

Rachael Geiger, from Shawnee, brought her 21-month-old daughter to meet Hofmeister at the Shawnee cafe. She said she once identified as a Republican, but now identifies as a Democrat. She appreciates that Hofmeister is centrist and likes his philosophy that Oklahomans have more in common than not.

As a mother of three girls, including a second grader and a kindergartener, she thinks “what is happening in our school system right now is terrifying”.

Geiger’s children attend a school that is 97% free and reduced lunch and 30% Native American, and she has seen firsthand the negative impacts that the lack of legislative investment in public schools has had, both financially and programmatically.

She doesn’t like “the fact that we’re playing with people’s curriculum at the state level, not trusting the teachers who are actually in our schools to teach what our children need to understand for our changing landscape” .

She’s also concerned about Stitt’s plan to transfer public funds to private education vouchers.

“We need someone who understands education at the highest level to be able to ensure that all of our children get a good education, not just in the areas where it has become homogenized,” she said. .

Hofmeister said Stitt’s plan to divert public money to private schools is “a rural school killer” and that dismantling public education will cause property values ​​to plummet.

“Kill the school and you kill the community,” she said.

State Rep. Justin Humphrey, R-Lane, however, said he was nicknamed Hofmeister “Joyless Hof-shyster” because of his political views and made T-shirts with the slogan.

“She’s the biggest hustler in Oklahoma,” he said. “She’s not defending anything. She is ready to say anything, do anything and become anything to get what she wants. What are you going to get with it? Is she a Democrat? Is she a Republican? Who knows. She is everything she needs to be.

Humphrey, who has publicly supported Stitt, said Hofmeister served as state superintendent for eight years and stole all the joy from schoolchildren. He said “look at the mess a lot of our schools are in right now”.

He also said Hofmeister stood up for everything his constituents were against. He believes she meddled in local school board politics, supported “transgender issues” and did nothing to prevent critical race theory from being taught in schools.

“If she’s in charge, we’re in for a disaster,” he said.

Hofmeister acknowledges that student achievement appears to have dropped under her leadership, but says that after noticing students deemed competent were graduating and then failing, she met with community leaders and teachers and asked if they would prefer that children are really competent in a field. subject and prepared to excel in higher education or their career path.

They made the standards tougher to be more truthful about skills, but the “really dramatic” drop in scores also revealed learning gaps, she said.

“I often say that the world outside the classroom impacts the world inside each school,” she said. “Having great teachers is going to be a key goal so that we can have great support, more individualized learning for our children. Without these supports, Oklahoma’s score will not rise and we will continue to see fewer prepared and ready graduate kids.

Hofmeister was the first in her family to go to college, but dropped out, married, sent her husband to Baptist seminary, and only later earned her education degree from Texas Christian University. .

Olivia Stevenson of Shawnee, who will be 18 on Election Day, said she plans to vote for the first time. After hearing Hofmeister speak at the nominee forum, she said she would vote for her. Stevenson, who is dual-enrolled at Shawnee High School and Seminole State College, said she likes Hofmeister’s plans to expand access to vocational schools.

“I know it’s an amazing program, especially coming from a place like Shawnee where everyone is low income,” she said. “We live in a rural area. It’s really hard to find a job, so vocational schools provide a great opportunity for a lot of people, and I think it’s a really good thing that she’s promoting it in her campaign.

Hofmeister, who also chairs the state’s CareerTech council, said Stitt threatened to expand the vocational program into higher education. She said the move would prevent CareerTechs from expanding their reach and services and prevent them from working to meet the labor needs of local businesses. It will also hamper the ability of more young people to transition into learning and work-based learning.

She also said CareerTech needs more funding. Programs are underfunded and there are waiting lists for training programs in agriculture and other highly skilled trades such as welder and electrician.

Hofmeister also said additional investment is also needed in universities and regional schools.

Ada’s Billie Jean Floyd describes herself as a ‘hardcore Democrat’ but said she has reached the point where she looks at the person, not the party, to assess what she stands for and what she plan to do at the office. A former Democratic state senator and retired teacher, Floyd thinks Oklahomians are beginning to realize there’s more to the world than just being a member of a specific political party and asking questions.

“We need someone who can look at Oklahoma’s problems and then come up with solutions,” Floyd said. “And I think she’s going to be that kind of person.”

Joel Canaga of Shawnee stopped for coffee where Hofmeister was campaigning and stayed to listen. He said he was probably the only independent in the room.

“The way she conveys her message is very clear,” Canaga said.

He said he was leaning towards voting for her, but said there were still 30 days until Election Day.

A profile of Governor Kevin Stitt’s campaign will appear next week.

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