5 minute read

House District 89’s seat has been vacant since January as the district’s former representative, Shane Stone, resigned. There was no special election held due to state law which prohibits special elections to take place during an election year. 

Located on the south side of Oklahoma City, the house district is roughly 70% Hispanic and Latino. However, the house seat has never been held by someone from Hispanic culture. 

Now, Democrat José Cruz will have the chance to become the first Latino to represent the house district as he is running against Republican John Hutton. 

With less than a month left until the November elections, Free Press will be providing coverage of races in the Oklahoma City metro area in depth. By doing so, we hope that you, the reader, gain a better understanding of the choices you will have on November 3.

“I am my community”

Originally from Chicago, Cruz moved with his family to Oklahoma where he attended Oklahoma Christian University and later went on to pursue a law degree at Oklahoma City University. 

After graduating, he served as the vice president of the League of United Latin American Citizens’ Oklahoma City chapter and met many community leaders that helped him get more acquainted with his district. 

José Cruz
José Cruz campaigning in the Fiestas de Las Americas parade October 2019. (file photo BRETT DICKERSON/Okla City Free Press)

He is now an attorney and has worked on the campaigns of notable Democrats such as Congresswoman Kendra Horn and State Senator Michael Brooks-Jimenez. 

Running for HD-89 was on his mind early-on as he put his hat in the race last year and became familiar with the district when he worked for Brooks-Jimenez’s campaign. 

On Cruz’s website, he describes himself as a “proud South Sider” and attributes his ability to understand and tackle issues that are prevalent in his district to his background, being from an immigrant blue-collar family. 

“I am my community. I know what it is like to be an immigrant. I am bilingual. I’ve walked the paths to becoming a citizen and also an attorney,” Cruz wrote Free Press. 

Policy – Medicaid

Cruz is running on many policies, but his main issues are healthcare, education, and jobs. 

Medicaid expansion is a key part of his campaign. Cruz is a board member of Variety Care, a non-profit community health center, and also received care from a community health center growing up in Chicago.

When asked about State Question 802, he explained that he understood why some are concerned about Medicaid expansion becoming part of the state constitution, such as CD-5 candidate Stephanie Bice

Nevertheless, he said “but at the same time, you know, we’ve had plenty of years to get [Medicaid expansion] passed in the legislature,” when asked over the phone about his support for the state question. 

Cruz told us that, in his community, there are people who are directly impacted by a lack of Medicaid expansion as they put off seeking medical care for treatable issues until they need to go to the ER years later. 

“I did a tour of Southwest Integris last week and they see 190 [people], on average, in the ER [per] day and they only have twenty something beds—less than 30,” he told Free Press over the phone. “That’s the strain that [lack of affordable healthcare] creates on our medical system [and] our taxpayers.”

Policy – education

When it comes to education, Cruz received the endorsement of the Oklahoma Education Association and wants to help students in his area gain access to quality remote learning. 

“My community is facing all the hardships, lack of technology for students, working parents, parents out of work…. Legislatively, we will have to make sure that core services are not cut and that children have continued access to school and technology,” he wrote us on a candidate survey. 

He also believes in the importance of the Department of Human Services as he worked on many law cases that involved foster children. Oklahoma County has the second highest number of children that are in foster care and similar out-of-homecare services in the state behind Tulsa County. 

He saw how the lack of proper funds and resources can have devastating impacts on the lives of Oklahoma children, which is why he wants to help support DHS workers to do their job more efficiently.

In one case, Cruz saw how the lack of attention being put into a foster family led to the death of a child. In another case, the foster parents were housing children as a means to have another income.  

ICE and Immigration

“When we’re talking about preventing ICE from operating in our county, it’s more because these are things that are unconstitutional and, at the federal [level], are not being dealt with,” Cruz said. 

He explained that there are many barriers against immigrants who are targeted by ICE. 

In his view, there are too many risks for undocumented people in his community for him to support ICE being in Oklahoma. He cited that undocumented immigrants are at risk of being detained and deported under minimal circumstances such as getting pulled over for a speeding ticket. 

Opponent John Hutton

John Hutton ran unopposed in the Republican party but has no official campaign website or contact information available.

After a considerable search and appeals to the Oklahoma County Republican Party, we have not been able to get a clearly identified photo or much of any information about him.

However, the organization U.S. Term Limits posted a press release stating that Hutton supports term limits, which is the most information we know so far about his campaign.