The seat, traditionally held by a Democrat, opened in February when former state Rep. Al McAffrey successfully ran for Senate District 46, which was vacated when Sen. Andrew Rice moved to Tennessee.
Located in central Oklahoma City, HD 88 is roughly defined by N.W. 50th and N.W. 10th streets, Santa Fe Avenue and Interstate 44.
Six candidates are on the primary ballot to replace McAffrey: two Republicans and four Democrats. If a candidate fails to get more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff is scheduled for Aug. 28.
Steve Cortes, Democrat Cortes, 43, is an attorney at Riggs, Abney, Neal, Turpen, Orbison & Lewis law firm. He is also the former general counsel for Gov. Brad Henry and serves on the boards of the City Rescue Mission and Oklahoma City Police Athletic League.
The biggest issue facing the state is education, he said.
“I think that’s something nobody can argue with. If we can start educating our workforce as much as possible, that’s helpful to everybody,” Cortes said. “The more educated our citizens are, the more work we’re going to do, and the more we’re going to be able to compete with other states.”
Cortes said he has been intrigued by the political system since he was a child, and has worked in political campaigns almost all his life. As an 8-year-old in Texas, he asked people to vote for a candidate for school board. His experience with an intimidating man left an impression.
“The guy said, ‘Do you know me?’ I said, ‘No, sir.’ He said, ‘Then don’t tell me how to vote,’” Cortes recalled. “That’s what the system’s all about: He was exercising his right, and I was exercising mine. It’s stuff like that that made me want to be part of the system.”
Mike Dover, Democrat Dover, 63, is the retired former head of Variety Health Center, which provides health care to low-income children. He also serves on the MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board and has received endorsements from Oklahoma City Councilmen Ed Shadid and Pete White, former Councilman Sam Bowman and OKC Public Schools Chairwoman Angela Monson.
Dover said he believes the biggest issue facing the state is the quality of education, citing his endorsements as evidence of his commitment to education.
“Education is always an issue,” he said. “It’s what the voters I know are always concerned about.”
Dover said he chose to run because he believes his experience in dealing with inner-city issues will be a needed addition to the Legislature.
He said his experience on the MAPS 3 Citizens Advisory Board has taught him how to bring together people from several different spheres of expertise to solve problems.
“I think I have a unique understanding,” he said. “I think the experience there has given me some insights into the way to make the city into a healthier community and building partnerships to improve education in our neighborhoods.”
Kay Floyd, Democrat Floyd, 54, is an Oklahoma City Special Municipal Court judge and a State Administrative Law judge who has served on the bench for 22 years, as well as several legal and community organizations. According to Oklahoma Ethics Commission filings, she leads all other candidates in fundraising.
Floyd said she thinks the biggest issue facing the state is education.
“When I was doing research for the race, I thought it was going to be jobs and the economy, but it’s not.
Everyone I’ve talked to in my district is very concerned about education,” she said, calling Oklahoma’s standing among other states “unacceptable.”
She said she is running because she wanted to continue to serve her community and because she feels qualified to bring the legislative focus to issues people care about.
“Fifty-two percent of the people in Oklahoma are women, and yet less than 13 percent of our senators and representatives are women,” Floyd said. “We need qualified, progressive women who can get the conversation back to education and other issues Oklahomans really care about.”
Douglas Garcia, Republican Garcia, 60, is the founder and executive director of Success Commission LLC, a former sales agent for Southwest Airlines, and holds a Bachelor of Science in aerospace studies.
He said one of the biggest issues facing the state is the inability of many in state government to work together to come up with reasonable solutions.
“That’s what I hope to bring: the ability to listen, sincerity, and the ability to translate things into language people can understand,” he said.
Garcia said he chose to run for office because he wanted to be actively involved.
“Instead of talking about it with friends and family, I decided to actually do something about it,” he said.
Matt Harney, Democrat Harney, 30, runs the small business and political consulting firm Harney & Associates. He also sits on the board of directors of OKC Pride and the Marianne Vannatta Race with the Stars committee.
He said while several issues face the state, they all stem from broader philosophical questioning of the government’s role.
“The argument seems to be from Gov. Mary Fallin and the Republican-led Legislature [that] we have to eliminate taxes and reduce the size of the public sector,” Harney said. “I would really like to change the debate. We need to advocate for these essential services that impact everyday Oklahomans.”He said he chose to run for office after serving with the House Democratic election arm for the past six years.
“I really witnessed firsthand the positive role that these servant-leaders can play at the state Capitol,” he said. “This is the perfect opportunity to extend my service.”
Aaron Kaspereit, Republican Kaspereit, 29, is the youngest person in the race. As speech and debate teacher at Owasso, Choctaw and Midwest City high schools, he has led several students to state championships and national competitions.
He said although the state has many issues facing it, such as those involving education and infrastructure, the most immediate is economic growth, and that he wants to make it easier for small businesses to thrive.
“They are the backbone and stability of our economy,” Kaspereit said. “While big businesses can come and go on a whim, it is the small businesses that will be around longer, and that’s why they are so critical.”
He said he decided to run because he feels that few elected officials actually represent the people.
“I am running because I want to make life a little easier for other hardworking citizens like me,” Kaspereit said. “I am running because no one else is actually listening to the needs of the majority of citizens.