Journalist-turned-lawyer Abby Broyles says she knows the issues that matter most to Oklahomans, the worries that keep them up at night, because she's been telling their stories for years.
Broyles announced her campaign for U.S. Senate in November, vying for the seat currently held by long-time incumbent Jim Inhofe.
"While I'm a lawyer, at heart I'm a journalist. I've either been a journalist or wanted to be a journalist for half my life. I think that what makes me uniquely qualified is that I've been listening to Oklahomas for a long time," Broyles told the Progress. "I know the issues they care about because I'm here each and every day and I've been telling their stories for years. For a while I thought this is what I was meant to do. But watching what was happening and realizing nothing was changing I decided to get off the sidelines and get in there myself to fight for people in a way I hadn't before."
Broyles grew up in Bethany, Okla. Her mother is a college professor and her father manages the local credit union there.
" I knew in high school that I wanted to be a journalist, so during college I worked really hard and graduated in two and a half years and started my TV career when I was 20," she said, adding that she worked on air in Texas for two years, and in Oklahoma City for eight years.
"When I was covering the capitol I decided I wanted to go to law school and get my law degree, expand my skill set as a journalist. I went to law school at night while I was working at channel 4 during the day," she said. "Then the summer of 2019 I was about to take the bar exam and decided I was at a crossroads in my life."
She said after months of consideration, advice-seeking, and deliberation, she decided to join the race for U.S. Senate.
"Jim Inhofe has been in the senate since I was in kindergarten. He hasn't been moving us forward. I think it's time for a new generation of leadership in DC. So, I decided to run for U.S. Senate," she said. "There's a whole wave of people like me running for Senate this year. I think it's my generations turn to lead. We've had people who have been in the political gridlock for so long. Some of these institutional senators in DC, it's time to vote them out. I think that's what Oklahomans are ready for."
Right now Broyles is on the campaign trail visiting as many parts of Oklahoma as she can.
One of the issues she thinks will be most pressing in this election is healthcare.
"It's simply too expensive. Most Oklahoma families are one health situation away from financial ruin. When you're having to choose between paying for healthcare or putting food on the table, that's just not right. It's gone on too long," she said. "As a journalist I saw first hand, hospitals closing in rural Oklahoma and people not having the access to healthcare that they should. When it comes to protecting people with pre-existing conditions, that's top priority for me... I believe all the protections have to be put in place to protect people with preexisting conditions."
She said, "These are our people. We have to take care of our people. When it comes to health, it's not just health, it's financial wellbeing. Another piece of that is that prescription drug costs are soaring. I want to cap prescription drug costs. When you're making decisions on how to prioritize providing for your family, typically you're going to provide for your kids before you think about yourself, so people aren't getting the prescriptions they need for whatever their health situation may be."
Another issue Broyles thinks will define this year's election is the gender wage gap.
"Any woman can relate to the issue. Women in Oklahoma make 73 cents on the dollar to what men make. I've seen it firsthand in my profession, and I'm not alone. Most women have probably felt like they're being discriminated against. One problem is that we punish people for talking about salary in the workplace. That doesn't help. While there are laws on the books to address that, it's that portion where we punish people for talking about salary, that's wrong. Women could determine this election," she said. "So I think talking about the gender wage gap, and real concrete ways to close that gap, is important. It's important to have that discussion. It's 2020. The last report I saw says it will be 100 years from now before we'll close that gap—and that's unacceptable."
Broyles' website outlines her stance on a few other key topics from criminal justice reform, to uplifting Oklahoma farmers, to decriminalizing marijuana.
Broyles said campaigning has been a positive experience thus far. She said she's been happy to meet people where they are, and hear what matters most to them.
"People are really excited this year. People are more engaged than ever before. This is a rough political climate and I think people are ready for change. And people realize how important this election is because our democracy is at risk. We are facing critical issues and rather than talking about what's important to everyday Oklahomans our political leaders are bickering in Washington D.C. It's partisan politics at its best. When I talk to people they are talking about their healthcare, and their kids, and things that effect them on a day-to-day basis. I think that's a disconnect between voters and the people in office," she said. "People are passionate about health care. And people are passionate about the environment. And we have a US Senator currently who denies climate change. I think it's critical that we elect a senator this year who will start working to combat the adverse effects of climate change. I think that's why so many young people are engaged right now, they know how critical this election will be to actually start addressing the issue."
She added, "People want to be heard. And I'm good at listening…. I want to hear what issues matter most to people. I'm running for US senate to work for them, so I need to listen to them."