There’s an old saying that you do not discuss politics and religion in polite company because someone is always going to get mad. However, I think today our lack of discussing politics and religion face to face, and reliance on that 24 hour news cycle has led to a situation of ignorance and intolerance that allows people to feel bold in their opinion behind a keyboard and computer screen.
Since election night 2016, it has felt like we have never left the political news cycle. Usually we have at least a few months break between the constant coverage, but the last 1.5 years have been a non-stop cycle of criticism and cynicism. I too have engaged in my share of speech regarding the last round of elections but I have also settled in to see how things turn out and to listen with the benefit of the doubt. There is always a winner and a loser in an election but at the end of the day our system of government also depends on those who backed that non-victorious party giving the winner a chance to govern and prove thier merit.
I watched the election results last night with an excitement that I have not had in a long time. For the first time in my career many of my friends and acquaintances were on ballots and running primary races that would determine if they went on to elections in November. Few people won outright last night, most went on to run off races in August. Those who were running for judicial seats who did not win outright will have the top 2 candidates go on to the big election in November. It is exciting to see my law school classmates and personal friends put themselves out there in the process.
This year I am an actual political candidate. This brings a whole new level of understanding and respect to the political process. I admire those candidates who I have watched this year who have kept the campaign to the issues at hand rather than attacking the family of the candidates. I also admire those who do their best to stay out of the muck when it comes to campaigning. Some of it cannot be avoided when the purpose is to educate people why and how you differ from your opponent but that can still be done in a respectful manner without name calling and low blows.
The education walk out has also had a big impact on the elections this year. Many teachers decided to run for office and many of the Lady Lawyers in Black who went to the Capitol to fight for education funding decided to run for office. For me, filing my papers as a candidate while the walk out was going on can be describe as nothing less than an awesome experience. I have not seen the results yet on how all of those unexpected candidates have come out. However, I did see one of the Lady Lawyers in black say that out of the 10 no voters for education that were up for election, 2 were defeated outright, seven will be in a run off in August and one won the primary but has a November election. The people are speaking and participating and regardless of the outcome that makes my heart happy.
I took my 17 year old daughter Meredith with me to file my declaration of candidacy. I carried her in my belly during my first year of law school and her older sister was 6 months old when I started law school. Both girls grew up playing under my desk in law offices. Meredith’s health issues in particular have shaped my career as much as my success in the courtroom. Today I run my own law firm that I strive to make family friendly because firms I worked for previously made me feel like I had to choose between being a mother and being a lawyer. In my mind there was no choice nor was there a need to make a choice, professionals adapt.
Yesterday I took my 4 and 5 year old bonus babies with me to vote. We stood in line and discussed the difference between the long line (Republicans) and the short line (all the other parties). We talked about why you voted at a booth where no one could see your vote. We discussed the issues that I was voting on and why I was voting that way in an age appropriate manner. On the way to my office because they too go with me and play on the floor by my desk we talked about the history of voting for women and how important voting is to our country. I took pictures of them loading my ballot into the counting machine and they helped me watch the election results come in last night. These 4 girls are my biggest inspiration in running and as a candidate I strive for my campaign to be an example for them to be able to talk about political issues.
Oklahoma made some history last night in approving medical marijuana and one of its biggest opponents was defeated in the primary of his race for reelection to his seat. Make no mistake, that the passage of 788 will effect many areas of the law and that legalization does not resolve all the issues with the use and possession of marijuana. I expect it will take 12-18 months for the Legislature to work out the laws needed to regulate it. I don’t know how quickly doctors will be able to write prescriptions. Nevertheless its use will be an issue in the cases I continue to practice in, just as the legal use of opioids is an issue – employment, family, personal injury, criminal, deprived and delinquent juvenile cases and so on. Legalization for medical purposes is a step towards decriminalization and criminal justice reform. While the sky is falling no campaign was often inaccurate in my opinion, there are still issues with passage that have to be worked out.
Overall Oklahoma, you made me proud last night. Voters turned out. People made their voices heard. Change is coming one way or another to our state and it looks to be positive change to help our criminal justice system, our healthcare system and our school system. These positive improvements will in turn help bring business to our state as businesses want to bring their company to a state with an educated citizenry, with employable and healthy people and with a positive environment. So regardless if you voted red, blue or purple (where I put everyone that does not fall solidly into the other categories), thank you for your vote. Thank you for your time. Thank you for working to make Oklahoma a great state!!