From a field of six, Ed Shadid and Charlie Swinton were the top two vote-getters in the March 1 primary election. Neither candidate received 50 percent of the vote, although Swinton got the highest number with 43 percent, compared to Shadid’s 35 percent.
In the March 1 election, incumbents Meg Salyer in Ward 6 and Patrick Ryan in Ward 8 held onto their seats, but Ward 5 incumbent Brian Walters lost his re-election bid to David Greenwell.
All four races saw an influx of third-party ads and money from nonprofit groups.
One such group, the Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum, which had yet to reveal its donors in city filings at press time, bought advertisements and sent mailers supporting Salyer, Ryan, Greenwell and Swinton. Another nonprofit, a Voice for Responsible Government, gave $125,000 to a political action committee backing Salyer’s and Ryan’s opponents.
Oklahoma City Momentum has stated it plans to continue to campaign for Swinton in the runoff.
Both candidates spoke to Oklahoma Gazette against third-party campaign spending, while offering what they said was a vision for a better future for Oklahoma City.
Charlie Swinton, 61, is senior vice president for BancFirst, and a registered lobbyist for the bank, as well as insurance and real estate companies.
He said he has been involved in government for a long time, but wanted to serve the public in order to make a difference in people’s lives. When he found out Ward 2 Councilman Sam Bowman was not seeking re-election, Swinton saw it as his opportunity.
“I thought, ‘If I’m not going to do it now, when am I going to do it?’” he said.
Swinton said part of the role of a city councilor is to ensure the function of government is working efficiently and effectively. One of his biggest goals would be to promote job creation.
“You don’t have a great city or great neighborhood without a job,” he said. “I think jobs are always first thing.”
By creating more employment opportunities and encouraging small business growth, the city’s overall economy will improve, Swinton said.
“We’re woefully short of manpower on the street in the police department, in my opinion,” he said. “There’s no magic to more police; you’ve got to have more resources available.”
In addition, he hopes to work with schools in order to improve education, as well as streamlining city government to serve citizens better.
“There’s nothing more frustrating than being caught in bureaucracy,” Swinton said. “I want to make sure Oklahoma City government is as streamlined and efficient as possible.”
He said he supports all of the MAPS 3 projects and previous MAPS programs.
“I’ve always been for every MAPS and am supportive of the implementation of MAPS,” he said, adding that he believed Shadid was anti-MAPS. “I think MAPS is the defining issue in this race. (The projects) were all approved by the people, so I will work to fully implement them all. They’ve got committees appointed and work is going forward. As the work progresses on MAPS, I’ll be there to support it.”
Swinton, who said he does not know who is behind Oklahoma City Momentum, said he looks down on such third-party groups purchasing ads, but thinks such groups are just part of the American political system.
“I detest it, but it’s something we have to live with,” he said. “We’re winning without it. I think it’s an influence that we wish didn’t happen, but the Supreme Court (in the Citizens United case) has ruled and it’s part of the democratic process.”
Ed Shadid, 42, is a spinal surgeon and former independent candidate of Oklahoma House District 85, running last year with the backing of the Green Party.
He said he hopes to bring diversity to the council with his background as a physician and that his priorities include encouraging healthy initiatives, increasing the amount of police and firefighters in the city, and making sure all of the approved MAPS 3 projects are implemented through a transparent process.
Shadid said Swinton’s allegation that he is anti-MAPS is “dishonest.”
“I think the decisions we make on a local level are so important in terms of our health and happiness. It impacts our daily lives in so many ways,” Shadid said.
Health and wellness issues, in which the state consistently rates low nationally, can be solved by local initiatives, he said, such as improving walkability.
“We went 40 years, from 1960 to 2000, without building a sidewalk in this city,” Shadid said. “The decisions we make at the municipal level have a direct correlation with our obesity rates and our health epidemics that cause our health insurance premiums to rise and will eventually bankrupt our health care system.”
Shadid said if elected, his first priority would be to set up a direct line of communication between himself and Ward 2’s residents and neighborhood associations.
“I am committed to open and transparent government. I am committed to being independent and being beholden to no special interests,” said Shadid, whose campaign is mostly self-financed.
He compared large campaign donations to issues faced by doctors a few years ago, when gifts from the pharmaceutical industry influenced prescription-writing behaviors.
“Consciously or subconsciously, financial gifts were able to introduce an element of bias. The same is true in politics,” Shadid said. “When special interests are able to give large financial contributions to politicians, you introduce the same kind of bias and, consciously or unconsciously, it becomes difficult for the elected official to look at a proposal without some level of bias toward the financial benefactor.”
Shadid said there have been calls from non-candidate-affiliated groups who are “push-polling” Ward 2 voters by couching questions in a way that link him to issues such as abortion, military spending and allegations of Medicaid fraud that Shadid called “impossible.”
A push poll is a surveying tactic in which the surveyor attempts to sway voter preference by using charged language or innuendo against the targeted candidate or issue.
“It rises to the level of slander. It is not encouraging for the democratic process,” Shadid said. “I want to be able to tell my children we live in a society that has a thriving democracy, but unfortunately, in general, and in this election in particular, it makes me question how strong our democracy is.”