Democrat Senate candidate Sean Burrage and Republican Senate candidate Ami Shaffer publicly denounced hard party line politics when they took the stage in the recent Chamber of Commerce-sponsored candidate forum at Rogers State University.
“I can pledge to you I am not going to State Senate as a hard line Democrat,” Burrage said. “I’m going as someone who lives in Rogers and Mayes county to work out problems.
“The issues important to Senate District 2, to Rogers and Mayes county, they are not Republican issues, they’re not Democrat issues, they are issues that are important right here,” he said.
“When I worked for David Boren out Washington, D.C., I got to see first hand how bipartisan efforts could pay off ... Senator Boren was often asked by Bob Dole and George Mitchell to intervene, to work out the differences between parties, and work out a bipartisan solution when there was a stalemate. I got to see how that works first hand.”
Shaffer said she has never been partisan.
“I’ve never divided over party. I was raised by Depression Democrats, with a wild-eyed, yellow dog grandpa,” she said, “and, you know, my husband is a pastor and you can’t be a preacher’s wife with a congregation filled with both parties that you don’t learn how to be a builder, that you don’t learn to be a consensus builder. And, that’s what I will do in representing the folks of this area.
“I have never been one to divide. I’ve never been one to fuss and fight over party labels. I will not start that now,” she said.
The call for bipartisanship has brought focus to the question of which candidate can most effectively represent second district and Oklahoma at large.
Burrage said whether the Democrats are in the majority or the minority, “building personal relationships” will be critical.
“Folks the margin in the State Senate will be razor thin, probably a 25-23 split, 24-24 split. People in both parties agree with that so building personal relationships with these folks will become very important,” Burrage said.
Shaffer said, “The truth is there are issues that are important to both parties” such as illegal immigration and lawsuit reform.
“I’ve knocked 6,500 doors — that’s a conservative estimate. It’s the number one question that I’m ask about out there, all over our district. And it doesn’t matter if it’s Democrat or Republican. Whether it’s older, younger, whether it’s a little lady name April living in a mobile home out by Inola or another lady living in Oakwood. The issue is the same,” she said.
“Lawsuit reform cuts across party. I will work hard to find common ground and work to build a consensus (in the Senate),” Shaffer said.
Democrat Sean Burrage, who has received term-limited Senator Stratton Taylor’s endorsement, told the mixed-party audience, is a Claremore attorney. He is president of a local charitable foundation, Share the Spirit and attends the First United Methodist Church with his family, Carole and sons Truman and Carter.
“Folks, we’re at a crossroads in the state of Oklahoma. We’ve got to decide what kind of state we want to be in 10 or 15 and 20 years from now. And, that’s important to me because I don’t just want my kids to live in this state, I want my kids to want to live in this state.
“When I talk about what issues are important, I talk about two issues at the same time and that’s economic growth and education. I think those two issues are so intertwined. We’ve got to create a progressive business climate to attract new jobs and attract new businesses.
“Our kids are going to be competing in an international economy, global economy. They are going to be competing for jobs against people in India and China. We’ve got to train them. We’ve got give them the best education possible.”
Burrage also said healthcare, affordable prescription drugs, illegal immigration and roads and bridges are also key state issues.
On a more local level, Burrage said he wants to be the State Senator that “finally solves the [railroad] underpass-overpass problem in this county.”
Shaffer used an analogy to describe her motivation for running and vision for the future.
“You may remember a few years ago there was a popular movies called Field of Dreams. There was an expression that came from that movie, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ That’s what I want to say about Oklahoma and the second Senate district: If we build it, they will come; if we build it, they will stay.
“I want you to look to the future with me concerning not just the state but particularly our area. We are in the best part of the state and we truly are at a crossroads in the state of Oklahoma and I want to be a part of building for the future. I want the second Senate District to be a vital part of the building.
“Oklahoma has great things, but the truth is we have a few things we need to change. We need to create a climate that is a more business-friendly climate so that there are more tax dollars for everything that we need to use tax dollars for.
“I’m asking you to see the future with me, and see what we can create if we work together. That’s why I’m running for the Second District,” she said.
Shaffer, who went back to school after raising two sons to earn her juris doctorate from the University of Tulsa, has worked in both the public and private education systems and was instrumental in bringing CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) to the county judicial district.
“The first step that I will take” if elected, Shaffer said, will begin with “what I’ve done in the last 26 years that I’ve lived in the best part of the state.”
“I will be a bridge builder; I will be restorer of the breach between the two parties.
“This is not about building something for me, but building something for the future. With all of you helping, we can do it together,” Shaffer said.
Burrage said 250,000 people live in northeast Oklahoma, outside Tulsa County, and they need to choose a new state senator.
“I want to be that person. I want to go to Oklahoma City and try to work for the roads and bridges we talked about before. I want to go to Oklahoma City and try to solve the $7 billion unfunded liability in the teachers retirement system.
“These are the issue I want to work for. I think I have the experience as former legislative director for U.S. Senator David Boren and director of federal and state relations at OU (University of Oklahoma).
“I am ready to go to work for you. Last and most importantly, I promise to clean up all the signs,” Burrage said.
Shaffer said, “I’m the best choice for this office because I will bring to this office only the expectations of the voters and those are great expectations.
“I want to earn your vote,” she said referencing days of door knocking in the “mud and sludge — and this is going to be one of those stories your grandparent used to say — climbing the hills and all that kind of things. I have worked hard. I will continue to work hard. I will never miss a session, unless it is an emergency.
“You will get exactly what you see. You will get exactly what you pay for. I’ll work hard for you,” Shaffer said.
County office candidates will be featured in the Sunday Daily Progress edition.