That Time Tyson Ran For Congress

Posted by Admin on May 21, 2018 Blog | | No comments

This article was published in The Oklahoman.


Edmond debate displays differences of style among Democratic congressional candidates


EDMOND — Few congressional candidates wear gold shoes to a debate.

Fewer still call themselves a goofball in their opening statement or tout their role in changing the corporate landscape of rock music or compare their lectern to an Academy Awards stage.

Tyson Todd Meade — whose campaign slogan is “Time to ROCK Congress” — did all of those within a minute Wednesday night at what will likely be the only forum for Democratic congressional candidates in the 5th District before their June 26 primary.

“I would bring a national spotlight to this seat and I’ve already gotten my friends around the country united because, first of all, it’s kind of melted people’s brains that I’m running for Congress,” the 55-year-old former Chainsaw Kittens frontman said to hearty laughter from the crowd and his own throat.

The forum offered the clearest distillation to date of the differences among five Democrats seeking to challenge Rep. Steve Russell in a district that is trending Democratic and is widely expected to present the closest congressional contest in Oklahoma this November.

There is Kendra Horn, the 41-year-old Oklahoma City attorney, advocate and nonprofit director who has dominated the fundraising race and amassed labor union endorsements with a moderate message. She thumbed through note cards during the forum, organizing her thoughts on the night’s three topics: guns, health care and education.

“In November, if elected, I will be only the third woman elected to Congress from Oklahoma and the first Democrat,” she told the Edmond Democratic Women. “Oklahomans are better than the image we’re projecting to the state and the nation.

“We can flip this seat in November and it’s going to take all of us to do it.”

There is Tom Guild, the 63-year-old retired law professor and Bernie Sanders acolyte with an array of progressive policy ideas for America’s social safety net, such as Medicare for all, that arise from his own hardscrabble beginnings as a child born into poverty and abuse.

“We not only need Medicare for all but we need to expand Medicaid in Oklahoma under the Affordable Care Act,” Guild said. “It’s a crime that Mary Fallin didn’t do that. We need to make sure that we have ample funding for Planned Parenthood.”

Health care is a topic on which the candidates deviated slightly from one another. Guild and Meade adamantly back Medicare for all — a proposal also known as single-payer health care — but Horn says she’s unsure if it’s best. Two other candidates, Ed Porter and Elysabeth Britt, were not asked about it, though the former has previously indicated his support for the idea.

Porter, 67, is a retired state employee running a populist campaign on a shoestring budget. He took a hard line stance on firearms, calling for a ban on assault weapons and breaking with Guild by saying he would give police officers the power to remove legally owned guns in cases of alleged domestic violence.

“A few years ago, about the time Donald Trump started running for the president of the United States and we could pretty clearly see the direction that he was going in, and that the GOP members in Oklahoma were going to follow that lead, I became very, very concerned,” Porter said, explaining his motive for entering the race.

“You vote for whoever you want to and I’m good with that. But you make sure that they’re going to fight on your behalf.”

Britt, a transgender Marine veteran, is the youngest candidate at 39 and a relative latecomer to the race who has staked much of her campaign on the issue of public education, including her participation in last month’s statewide teacher walkout. She has met with state leaders, including Gov. Mary Fallin, to discuss proposals for improving the state’s schooling.

“I joined this race to facilitate change,” she said. “That’s what I’ve been doing for the last two decades: working on difficult issues, bringing people to the table and coming up with solutions that make sense, which I think is certainly something we need in this time.”

A sixth Democratic candidate, Leona Kelley-Leonard, did not make an appearance at Wednesday’s forum and has not yet filed a fundraising report.

The six candidates will face off in late June across a congressional district that includes most of Oklahoma County, along with all of Pottawatomie and Seminole counties. If a candidate fails to garner a majority of votes — a likely occurrence in a six-person race — the top two vote-getters will take part in a runoff Aug. 28.

“I want everyone to win,” Meade said with a loud laugh. “Is there any way that we can just all win and say, ‘Goodbye, Steve Russell?’”

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