Two of his opponents — Mayor Mick Cornett and Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid — have more financial backing, and Nelson isn’t betting on himself to win the March 4 primary election.
“I know it’s far from happening, but I do have people who take me seriously, even if the people on the council don’t,” he said. “They dismiss me for one reason: I don’t have any money to make things happen.”
Nelson believes in the election process and the ability to convey critical messages, even if he loses.
“Even if I don’t get elected, I want to show people what these guys are all about. They’re smart, really smart, but they’re not delivering what they’ve promised,” said Nelson, 76, a Navy veteran of the Vietnam era.
Nelson ran against former Mayor Kirk Humphries in 2002 and is in his third election against Cornett.
He supports MAPS 3 in principle but opposes the modern streetcar and the proposed route while using phrases like “going nowhere” and “useless.”
No political plans
Politics was never part of Nelson’s life plan until he retired as a general contractor in 1998. He has since become an outspoken critic of city administrators, OKC’s elected officials and most of their plans.
Nelson smiled when asked if he considers himself a thorn in the side of city leadership.
“I hope I am,” he said. “I don’t apologize for anything I’ve ever said because what I’m doing is centered on the people of Oklahoma City, not the men and women on that horseshoe (the city council).”
Ward 4 Councilman Pete White doesn’t take offense to Nelson’s comments. “I think he’s well-intentioned and he cares a great deal about Oklahoma City,” he said. “He’s been an equal-opportunity attacker.”
White, the longest tenured councilman, acknowledged that Nelson raises issues the council “would have a hard time doing” or simply ignores.
Nelson, who claims to have spent “thousands of dollars” obtaining public records, is a visible and vocal figure at City Hall, especially during council meetings. Almost without exception, he’s ready to comment during the public part of the agenda on issues dear to him, oftentimes to the annoyance of city officials. In some instances, he has made conspiracy allegations against Cornett, City Manager Jim Couch and other council members.
“It takes someone nuts or crazy to get what the real information is,” he said. “I love City Hall. There are a lot of people who are really trying to make a difference. I like city government when it’s run correctly.”
Before starting his fight against city leadership, Nelson made it his life’s mission to be involved in community projects and helping others. His former office at NW 39th Street and Portland Avenue was filled with photographs showing him and high-ranking Oklahoma politicos and sports and entertainment celebrities.
He also supports St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., and organized fundraisers for OKC residents and charities, including the annual Red Andrews Christmas Dinner.
“I’m old-fashioned. I just want to make a difference,” Nelson said.