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House District 45 candidates talk turnpike, education ahead June 28 primary

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The candidates running for House District 45 include Democrat Annie Menz and Republicans David Spaulding and Teresa Sterling.

Three candidates are running for the Oklahoma House of Representatives District 45 seat. For the Republican primary, David Spaulding and Teresa Sterling are going head-to-head on June 28, while one Democrat is running, Annie Menz, is running uncontested. 

Merleyn Bell (D-Norman) currently holds the seat, and she was elected in November of 2018. She announced April 6 she is not running for reelection.

Bell was the first woman of color to hold the District 45 seat and was the successor to Claudia Griffith, who served two terms in the Oklahoma House. 

David Spaulding (R)

David Spaulding, or Dave to his family and friends, boasts his deep roots in eastern Cleveland County as a family man and a small business owner, who will let his Christian faith guide his decisions in office, according to his campaign site. 

According to his campaign website, Spaulding strongly supports the anti-abortion movement. He is also a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, the president of the Cleveland County chapter of the Oklahoma Second Amendment Association and the former Cleveland County GOP chair.

With four kids still in school, Spaulding said he is a big supporter of local education and wants to see more money put toward learning. He is also against critical race theory and social emotional learning being taught in public schools. 

Spaulding hasn’t stated an opinion on ACCESS Oklahoma, a series of projects aimed at connecting Oklahoma through toll roads worth $5 billion and scheduled to last 15 years. A portion of these projects is planned to go directly through District 45, destroying over 600 homes in Norman.

Spaulding received a degree in multidisciplinary studies with an emphasis in constitutional philosophy and entrepreneurial leadership from the OU. 

Spaulding served as a Norman City Council member for one term, starting in 2011, but lost when he ran for reelection in 2013

Prior to his time as a city council member, Spaulding spoke at meeting in 2010, focusing on a proclamation that would’ve declared October as “Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender History Month.” Spaulding was openly opposed to the “GLBT Proclamation” and participated in a PBS documentary that focused on the aftermath of Zach Harrington’s death and the mentioned city council meeting.

Spaulding originally agreed to an interview with OU Daily, but later canceled prior. He did not respond to multiple attempts to reschedule. 

Teresa Sterling (R)

With 27 years of police department experience, Teresa Sterling is a big proponent for the Oklahoma City Police Department. Sterling is backed by the Oklahoma State Chamber Political Action Committee and the Norman Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 122. 

Her awards include two Meritorious Service Awards, three certificates of achievement for her work at the Oklahoma City Bombing and five awards from the Oklahoma Women in Law Enforcement, according to her Facebook page. 

Sterling, like her opponent Spaulding, is staunchly against the teaching of critical race theory in schools.

“… telling children they are oppressors (bad) or victims is child abuse, ” Sterling said in a Facebook post. 

She also said on Facebook she believes parents should decide what is taught to their children in schools, noting it is teachers’ jobs to teach “... true American and world history” rather than morals and family values. 

Sterling has openly expressed opposition to the ACCESS projects. 

Sterling is the current secretary of both the Cleveland County GOP and the Cleveland County Republican Women’s Club. She is also a member of the FOP Lodge 122 and the Association of Retired Police Officers. Sterling and her husband own Capt. Jack’s Wine, Rum and Spirits in Norman. 

Sterling did not respond to multiple attempts to schedule an interview. 

Annie Menz (D)

A single mother and a big proponent of Lake Thunderbird conservation, Annie Menz's goal is for the people of her district to feel heard and supported.

With a father that served in the U.S. Army and an immigrant mother, Menz said she learned the value of exceptional work ethic from both of her parents. In an effort and longing to serve her country, Menz enlisted in the U.S. Navy at 17 and went on to earn an associate of arts degree from Oklahoma City Community College. 

Menz worked for six years as a nonpartisan legislative and executive assistant at the Oklahoma state Capitol. Menz said this provided her with many channels of communication in local and state government. 

As a mother, Menz said she is a big proponent for the future of education and funding for public schools. Pertaining to the proposed turnpike, she is opposed and “will fight to protect the Lake Thunderbird watershed, native and migratory wildlife,” according to her campaign site. 

In an interview with the Daily, Menz highlighted the importance of knowing what your officials do.

“Your elected state representative is supposed to be your middleman between you and state agencies like (Department of Human Services) or (Oklahoma Tax Commission) or (Oklahoma Turnpike Authority),” Menz said. “And so, being able to cultivate and develop connections and relationships with agency officials is vital.”

Menz said she aims to speak for the people. In regard to the ACCESS Project specifically, the proposed turnpike that would run directly through District 45, she said she feels it was opposed by citizens due to a lack of communication from local and state governments. Residents did not learn that over 600 homes in their community would be demolished for the project until late in the process. 

Menz is a supporter of face-to-face interactions and she boasts her door-to-door campaigning method, hearing about questions and concerns straight from the district so she can find a solution. She said the six years working at the Capitol provided her with the channels to accomplish this. 

“There are a lot of people running who are very smart, and I'm sure are very quick learners,” Menz said. “But I will be ready to rock on day one.”

The primary and special elections are on June 28. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. To find your polling location and see a sample ballot for your precinct, go to the OK Voter Portal.

Early voting is on the Thursday and Friday before elections from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the Saturday immediately before the election. No excuse is needed to vote early. 

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