Carri Hicks had a baby half-way through her campaign for the Senate District 40 Democratic primary nomination and won anyway.
And it was expressed in a lot of door-knocking and pinching pennies in a campaign funded mostly with small donations from an increasing cadre of supporters.
The better-known opponent, Danielle Ezell, has far more experience in lobbying and making things happen for the Democratic Party.
But Hicks prevailed with a clear win taking 51.40 percent of the vote over Ezell’s 48.60 percent.
In November she will face Republican Joe Howell who handily beat incumbent Erwin Yen in the Republican primary for SD 40.
The Senate district covers a large area that includes Nichols Hills and then runs across many neighborhoods to include the eastern ends of Warr Acres and Bethany.
It’s a very diverse district like most of the urban senate districts.
Hicks sat down with us the morning after her win.
We started the conversation talking about the district of so many different neighborhoods with different outlooks and needs.
“I’m excited that it’s a diverse group,” said Hicks. “It’s been trending Democratic for the last several election cycles.”
She pointed out that within SD 40 more and more young couples are moving into neighborhoods that had been aging a decade ago.
Now those neighborhoods are cycling back to younger people, many of them with children who are concerned about public schools.
“On the doors, I found that people want strong public schools and good medical care,” she said.
“The most encouraging part I saw was how many female candidates prevailed last night. Senate District 40 was in a good position to be represented by a female,” said Hicks.
But there is much to do with only seven percent of the Oklahoma Senate female representing a population that is 52 percent female.
“Whatever happens between now and November, I’m the most inspired by the fact that people are starting to be more comfortable with females running and being elected to serve and actually accomplish meaningful changes.”
We pushed her to talk about what she thought the differences were between the way male and female politicians do their work.
“Often times, women are convinced to run by others who recognize that side of them. My situation was very much the same,” she said.
“What we see in male representation is that numerous times they have made the decision to run and therefore the intentions are not in the same place.”
She pointed out that since so many people encouraged her to run, “I did not need to defend why I was running.”
But, she enjoys helping people see her in a different light when they call her “a politician” as she knocks doors.
“I have to laugh. I’m a mom and a teacher. I’m not a politician. And truly, I just want to take care of people.”
Even though she decided to run in April of 2017, she felt even more compelled to run an assertive race when she saw the treatment teachers were getting at the Oklahoma Capitol during the teacher walkout this year.
“The message we got on Tuesday of the second week of the walkout was to close the doors. To say we’re not taking any more meetings from teachers. We’re done. We have other business to accomplish. They [teachers] need to go back to work.”
She said that she was even more determined once she saw the legislators’ approach that once a pay raise was given that should satisfy everyone.
Teachers continue to leave the state out of frustration because funding continues to get cut to education affecting the students.
Even Deer Creek, where she teaches, is far behind on adequate classroom space even though the district has the appearance of being an up-and-coming suburban district that many want to get their children into.
“We have students being transported in the aisles of buses right now. We grow by a single elementary every year, but we’re not building a new elementary school every year.”
She said instead of the recommended 18 students in her fourth-grade class, she typically has 28.
It’s not just teacher pay that is wearing down even the most committed teachers. It’s the crowded classrooms and the scramble to make up for decreasing funding for running the schools.
It’s making the brightest and the best turn away from teaching. And that’s what concerns Hicks the most.
“There is no one in the pipeline to replace me. And when staff and teachers don’t even get a cost of living it’s despicable.”
She said publicly blaming teachers for not producing as much as legislators think they should is “not fair to point the finger at us.”
“We’re not just seeing that in Oklahoma. We are seeing it nation-wide. There is a real, intentional attack on public education.”